TV Recycling – Find All The Eco-Friendly Recycling Options
TVs have become almost like smartphones in the way that people are choosing newer and bigger TVs often on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, that kind of consumer behavior is making TVs that are just 24 months old almost obsolete.
Gone are the days where a 2-year old TV was worth selling before going for an upgrade.
But whether you have almost new or dusty old tube TVs in your garage, there is a right way to approach TV recycling.
And in this article, we'll give you some background to TV recycling processes, how to choose the best place for recycling, and why this is such an environmentally important thing to do.
Let's get right to it.
Not All TV Recycling Processes Are The Same!
When it comes to TV disposal and recycling, there is a big difference in the processes depending on the technology used.
So, I've broken this section into four important parts based on the age of the technology. Some of our readers might not even remember those ancient CRT relics.
1. CRT Recycling (The Dinosaur)
A cathode ray tube (CRT) TV uses a technology where negatively charged electrons beam from the back of a vacuum glass tube to the phosphors on the front glass panel.
If you have some electronic waste that you want to be sure won’t end up doing harm, then visit our for the most convenient locations near you.
It's a very simple explanation of quite a complex television technology, but because it's so outdated, I don't want to spend too much time on these monitors.
One thing to remember is that the best way to identify these monitors is by their huge size and weight.
Now, the reason proper CRT TV disposal is important comes down to the hazardous materials you'll find inside them.
There are up to 8 pounds of lead, depending on the size, and fluorescent phosphor powder. There are also toxic materials like cadmium, mercury, and barium that make the recycling of CRT televisions quite complicated but also extremely important.
2. Projection TV Recycling (The Grandparent)
This type of television became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s because they were significantly smaller and lighter than the older CRT monitors and TVs.
Some early devices were still CRT technology-based, but later ones started using a clever laser beam to project images onto the front screen.
I remember looking at these televisions in awe and then being completely disheartened by the price tags.
How things have changed!
What is especially important when it comes to properly dealing with projection televisions after their useful life is the careful recycling of mercury. Many of these devices had mercury lamps, and if they end up in the trash and at a landfill, they can burst and cause serious environmental damage.
3. Plasma TV Recycling (The Uncool Parent)
These older models of flat-screen televisions were the first ones you could find in electronics stores from about 2006 on.
Plasma TVs looks almost like the modern LED and LCD TVs but the technologies are quite different.
They were also the first ones to really take off in sales because the manufacturing technology became so much cheaper.
As a result, prices plummeted, and people started to buy even more of them.
But, from a manufacturer's perspective, these types of television still contained a lot of harmful materials like mercury and phosphor.
To a smaller extent, plasma TVs and monitors also contain barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, and lead, which is why it's so important to properly recycle such a television.
4. LED/LCD TV Recycling (The Cool Teenager)
And finally, we get to the modern flat-screen televisions that use LCD and LED technology. The good news about the latest televisions available is that manufacturers have started taking more responsibility for the environment.
That means more recycled materials for manufacturing, lower energy consumption, and overall fewer harmful substances.
The problem is that they have become extremely cheap and you see them everywhere. Many households have two or more of them, and you'll find them all over bars, malls, stores, train stations, airports, and even billboards.
So, even though they are not as harmful as their older cousins, many of these televisions end up in the trash rather than being recycled.
Let's take a look at some recycling options.
6 Ways To Dispose Of An Old TV
There are six main recycling options that you should consider for your broken or outdated TVs.
1. E-Waste Recycling Centers
The first one of our recommended recycling options is to bring your old television to a registered and certified electronics recycling center.
Now, it's important to focus on the certified electronics recycling part as this is the only way you can make sure that your old electronics go through a responsible recycling process.
See, most electronics, including CRT and flat-screen TVs, contain a certain amount of valuable materials. These can include gold, silver, and copper. But if you only recycle those and then dump the TVs or monitors in the trash, then you're really not avoiding damage to the environment.
Unfortunately, that happens more often than you might think.
So, how do you go about finding a recycling center?
If you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, then your best option is to drop off your old televisions and monitors at the Green Citizen recycling facility. We take televisions in for free recycling, no matter who the manufacturer is.
Our team specializes in electronics recycling, and our processes ensure that all recyclable materials are dealt with properly and in an environmentally safe way.
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But we also have an easy solution for you if you don’t live close to our headquarters. If you log into the GreenDirectory on our website, you can simply enter TV recycling options in the search field along with your zip code, and we’ll provide you with a list of the closest businesses that will take your televisions and monitors.
2. Manufacturers’ Recycling Programs
Public and regulatory pressure has resulted in the majority of manufacturers introducing an electronics recycling program.
Here are the recycling options for the four most popular brands.
All products under the LG brand are now accepted at designated drop-off sites. The process is simple and starts by entering your zip code in the search field on this site. You’ll get a map view of all the places that will recycle LG televisions and monitors near you.
LG also offers a mail-in service, which is available from the same site.
Samsung is another manufacturer that has partnered with multiple recycling networks in the USA, and they have a dedicated webpage to help you locate a green TV disposal location.
They will take back all types of consumer electronics, phones, and even home appliances.
Sony has partnered with a company called ERI to make it easy for you to recycle an old or broken television. Use the search feature on this site to find the closest locations. And if there are no services close by, then Sony also offers a free mail-in program.
TCL recently won a sustainability reward for its dedication to becoming a greener and responsible electronics manufacturer. The easiest way to find a TCL electronics recycling location is to visit this page and use the map function.
3. Best Buy Electronics Recycling Program
Best Buy has become one of the most convenient recycling options in America, and the main reason is that people find it easy to drop off an old television at the same time as they go shopping for a new one.
What’s also popular about the Best Buy electronics recycling program is the fact that every household can drop off up to three items per day. So if you find a TV or two buried under stuff in your basement and also want to get rid of some household electronics, then this might be quite a convenient disposal option if you’re heading to your closest Best Buy for a new television anyway.
4. Municipal Electronics Recycling Center
Your local landfill and council-operated recycling center is another great option for safe TV disposal. Most of these places have significantly expanded their capabilities for processing electronic waste, but it’s always best to call them first.
The downside is that they might not be the closest place, and some of the recycling options aren’t free of charge.
5. Consider Donating To A Good Cause
This should be one of the top recycling options for most people who want to get rid of a perfectly working television.
But you have to keep in mind that a modern smart TV can have some sensitive information on it. It could have details about your Netflix and Amazon Prime login details. And if you’ve looked at some vacation or family event photos and videos, then those could also be stored on the TV.
Before donating or selling your TV, it’s always best to check the instructions about how to erase all data on the TV.
Most charitable organizations will accept televisions with some limitations. You could ring any local charity or contact one of these three options.
Goodwill has a long list of things they accept, and that includes flat-panel TVs. They won’t accept CRTs, though, so keep that in mind. It’s also best to call your local Goodwill store to make sure they are accepting TVs because sometimes they might have too many in stock.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army accepts most home electronic devices on a drop-off basis. You can find details of exactly what they accept, along with valuations for tax purposes, here.
And finally, you can use Donation Town to find a charity that you’d like to support. Simply use the search function on the site and arrange for a free pick-up at your home.
6. Sell Your Old TV
The final one of our recycling options is to see if you can still get some money for your TV. A great idea is to post it for sale on Craig’s List, Facebook, or your local newspaper.
You could even share a post with your friends on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in buying it.
There might not be much money in it, but it could be enough to spend a bit extra on your new television.
Why Should You Recycle Your Old TV?
There are probably hundreds of environmental and human health reasons to recycle a television, but I think you can summarize them as these four most important ones.
TVs Contain Harmful Chemicals
While a modern TV has nowhere near as many toxic chemicals as what used to be common, there are still substances like lead, cadmium, mercury, and barium. Now, they are perfectly safe and contained within the TV when it’s functioning normally and in a safe place.
But dump that television at a landfill, and those chemicals will eventually leak.
TVs Contain Valuable Materials
Consumer electronics are full of highly valuable metals like copper, gold, and silver. There might only be a tiny amount in each television, but when you process tons of them, that all adds up.
Unfortunately, there are some dubious recycling services that only strip out the valuable stuff and dump the rest. That’s why it’s important to only deal with a certified recycler.
Avoid Landfill Disposal
Unfortunately, when it comes to TV disposal, the majority of television sets still end up at a landfill. According to Earth911, the U.S. generated almost 7 million tons of e-waste in 2019. And only 15% of that ended up at a recycling facility.
That’s a staggering amount of waste, especially when you consider how much raw materials are tied up in those devices.
This brings me to my next reason.
Reduces Need For Raw Materials
All those plastics, metals, and chemicals that go into a TV have to be in some way taken from resources in nature. Mining for them is extremely destructive and often leaves vast areas completely destroyed for decades.
But when you recycle a TV, all those materials can go back to a manufacturer to be used as raw materials for the latest and greatest TV technology.
Why Do Recyclers Charge Money for TV Recycling?
The most common type of TV that will incur a charge for recycling is the old cathode ray tube version. Most recycling services will charge to recycle those as the materials you get out of them are not worth as much as the cost of processing them.
For example, a modern TV will have a small amount of precious metals that provide value once you completely break down the TV. But a CRT monitor has a fraction of the amount of metals, and in some cases, contains toxic substances.
Most manufacturers no longer use those substances, and safely extracting them in the first place requires expensive machinery. The end result is a process that costs money and a substance that then requires specialty handling to make it safe for disposal.
The unfortunate reality is that doing the right thing with a CRT TV comes at a price. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the wise choice to make.
Can You Throw Your Old TV To A Landfill?
I mentioned above that only 15% of e-waste ends up in the cycle economy, and that would indicate that the vast majority ends up at a landfill.
And this is happening despite the fact that the majority of states have introduced some form of e-waste legislation.
But with so many states introducing legislation and landfill TV disposal still rampant, there has to be some sort of disconnect between the legislation and enforcement of it. The other problem with a lot of these new laws is that they don’t make landfill disposal illegal.
They may only introduce laws that say that manufacturers and electronics stores have to provide a service to make it easy to recycle. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that people and businesses will do the right thing.
No, Staples doesn't take old TVs for recycling. An alternative option would be Best Buy which has dedicated drop-off points for old electronics.
Yes, Best Buy will take old TVs for free. This is an ideal option if you plan to buy a new TV there as it can save you a trip to get rid of the old one.
Yes, Walmart will recycle your TV. However, their program is only free if you buy a new device at the same time.
You can get rid of your old TV for free at a certified recycling provider. However, this free service will be limited to modern flat-screen televisions and not CRTs.
Some old TVs might be worth a few dollars, depending on the age. But you might get more satisfaction out of donating it to charity.
You can recycle old TV remotes along with the TV. Most recycling providers will take these in and either reuse or recycle them.
Yes, TV remotes are e-waste. They contain many of the same metals and harmful substances as a TV and require proper disposal.
Are You Convinced Of The Importance Of TV Recycling?
Hopefully, at this stage, you’ll have the full picture of why it’s so important to take responsible actions when it comes to recycling electronics.
Considering the amount of damage TVs and other electronics can do to our environment, this should be a top priority for everyone.
If you have some electronic waste that you want to be sure won’t end up doing harm, then visit our GreenDirectory for the most convenient locations near you.
Chris is one of GreenCitizen’s writers who has been a long-time advocate of individual responsibility when it comes to the environment. He shares GreenCitizen’s passion for making the world a better place every day of the year.