How to recycle your TV?

End-of-life televisions thrown out on street curb
End-of-life TVs thrown out on street curb

As technology advances,  North Americans are dealing with an ever increasing dilemma of what to do with their old TV’s.  Every year, planned obsolescence plays a bigger and bigger role in our lives as our end-of-life electronics, which although work perfectly fine, become obsolete at an ever frightening pace.

The launch of flat screen TV’s has pushed the utility of our old CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions out the door and into our landfills.  This poses a serious environmental risk as the hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury inside the TV’s leach out into our environment polluting the land.    Did you know that each TV monitor contains between 6-8 pounds of lead? Now that’s serious poison!

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

1) Donate your TV to charity: Does your TV still work? If so, consider reusing it by donating it to a local charity, non-profit organisation or school.  Many of these organisations are so honest about directly investing their donations into their main activity, that they would feel guilty about spending it on office equipment.

Examples: Friends, family, grand parents, seniors home, day-cares, preschools, libraries, volunteer programs in low-income neighbourhoods etc.  You could also try RecycleNet which is a buy and sell place like CraigsList but for electronics in both Canada and USA.

2) Recycle the TV: The first thing you should do when inquiring about local recycling programs for your TV is to contact the manufacturer directly.  Some will except the TV for free or a nominal fee.  Although some TV manufacturers had info about their sustainable development programs and environmental advances in producing the TVs, Sony was the only manufacturer that actually had a great & easy program for recycling. You can either drop your Sony TV off at their Sony Style Canada or Sony Style USA store or to a certified drop off centre.  If you’re planning on purchasing a new TV, I would definitely suggest Sony as they have put excellent measures into producing more environmentally friendly TVs, plus they make it very easy to recycle.

In United States, Panasonic, Toshiba and Sharp created the Electronics Manufacturers Recycling Management Company which organises recycling events across 29 states and it seems to be growing. In Canada, Panasonic is striving to establish end-of-life recycling programs in all provinces though the help of the Electronic Product Stewardship organisation. Although they have many worldwide green initiatives in place, they do not currently accept their products back at their stores for recycling.

3) Contact your local municipality, province or state: Since not all retailers nor manufacturers have a recycling program in place, your next option is to find out what recycling programs exists in your area.  I must say, I was quite disappointed with the lack of programs available and not all provinces/states have taken on the initiative of creating an electronics stewardship program.  Apparently, Ontario is set to come on board with a stewardship program in April 2009, followed by Quebec in 2009 or 2010.

WARNING: Many municipalities hold recycling events open to the public to donate your used end-of-life electronics, however, you need to ask where these electronics are going.  There are a lot of sketchy “recyclers” out there that are actually just scrap companies looking for parts of value (copper, wiring, boards etc). According to FreeGeekVancouver electronic waste continues to be the most heavily traded toxic waste on the planet. UN figures say 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated yearly. Canadians alone throw out 140,000 tons of equipment every year, the equivalent of about 5.6 million computers. Most of the material that is collected for “recycling” and “re-use” actually ends up dumped or burned in poor countries with few environmental or worker protections.

Electronic waste in Lagos, Nigeria

© Basel Action Network - Electronic waste in Lagos, Nigeria

Here are some e-waste resources for both Canada and United States:

CANADA:

Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship has established a network of drop-off centres where residents and businesses can return select electronic equipment.

Electronics Stewardship Association of BC (Return-It electronics) provides an extensive list of drop-off centres across BC for electronics.

Alberta Recycling is a not-for-profit association that is responsible for tire and electronics recycling. Through their website, you can easily find recycling collection sites.

Saskatchewan Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP) is a non-profit corporation established by manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders for the purpose of coordinating the collection and recycling of obsolete electronic equipment in Saskatchewan. Green Manitoba is a provincial environmental program that deals with e-waste and provides a list of e-waste collection sites.

Electronics Stewardship is a non-profit corporation established by manufacturers, retailers, and other stakeholders to develop a waste diversion plan for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in response to the designation of these materials under the Waste Diversion Act (WDA).

SIMS Recycling Solutions is a recycler of end-of-life electronics in Brampton, Ontario. There is a fee for drop off but they do an excellent and honest job.

Electronic Stewardship Products Canada (EPSCanada) is a not-for-profit organisation working to design, promote and implement sustainable solutions for Canada’s electronic waste problem.

USA:

Basel Action Network lists ethical recyclers of electronics across the US on their website.

My Green Electronics is a great site “green” site operated by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) where you can locate recycling centres for electronics by zip code.

YNotRecycle will come pick up your used electronics for free in California.

eRecycle list all drop off locations for e-waste in California on their website.

Earth 911 is an excellent site that provides a wealth of information on consumer recycling including recycling centres in your area.

As TV recycling progress continues in North America, I will continue to update this list. One thing that is for sure, though is, if you still have that old TV lying around in your garage or attic, don’t hold on to it forever. As the demand for flat screen tv’s continues, the demand for the parts in CRT televisions will also decrease in poorer nations thus making it harder to recycle CRT TV’s. Thus, don’t wait any longer, recycle it now.

8 thoughts on “How to recycle your TV?

  1. This is a great post and an excellent resource. It’s also very timely. When the old analog “rabbit ears” TVs stop working in February 2009, I suspect a lot of people will simply upgrade their TVs rather than buying converter boxes. I hope people will make an effort to recycle.

  2. Hello Carmy,

    Thank you for a very good post on the electronics recycling initiatives that are ongoing in the industry.

    As for the analog/digital thing in Canada (later in 2010), most TV in Canada is delivered to people through cable boxes. So the analog coversion will not affect people nearly as much here in Canada as in the US.

    However, there is still a drive for people to modernize their TVs.

    This is a cost trade/off issue based upon other benefits with the new Flast screen TVs. Costs are cheap and the flat screens have much higher energy efficiencies than older CRT technology. We just need to make sure that these TVs go through to reputable recycling organizations.

    Thanks again,

    Tyler

  3. While provincial and state e-recycling programs are certainly a step in the right direction, many have actually been created with the manufacturers in mind, rather than the consumer.

    Ontario’s newly approved Ontario Electronic Stewardship plan, for instance, is focused primarily on the bulk collection and shredding of electronics for resource extraction. While reuse is given lip service in the plan, there is currently no method proposed to intercept reusable computers from collection depots before they are destroyed. In order to be reused, computers will have to be collected by Stewards or “Refurbish/Reuse organizations”

    Other recycling programs do not allow for reuse at all.

    This should be a concern since clearing the market of functioning computers eliminates up to 30% that could be reused – forcing consumers to buy new products rather than reusing one. Since most state & provincial recycling programs have actually been created by the manufacturers (essentially foxes guarding the hen house), we should all question their true motives.

    Recycling a PC also consumes 20 times the energy compared to reusing one, according to a study performed for the United Nations.

    Choose to Reuse before recycling – our carbon footprint will be smaller for it!

  4. Hey, great blog!

    Excellent research on an important subject. I don’t know the stats, but I suspect computer monitors are getting thrown out at an even faster rate than televisions. You see them on the side of the road constantly and that’s not to mention corporations who upgrade to flat-screens in the thousands.

    Locally, here in Montreal, most of the Eco-Centres have a small bazaar where they take anything that is still usable and sell it. It’s kind of like a non-stop garage sale. Lots of contractors go there looking for doors and windows as well. But they’ll definitely take your working TV or monitor. Also, Chainon on St. Laurent is a good resource.

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