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