Score an Eco-friendly Touchdown this Super Bowl Season by Recycling that Old Television
By Steve Skurnac
We’ll go to parties. We’ll track our favorite commercials. Many of us will also buy new TVs this year, all to make the most of Super Bowl XLVI. In a growing trend encouraged by retail sales and discounts, customers are coming to view the Super Bowl as a great excuse to replace an outmoded set with the latest model. In fact, the NPD Group tracked sales records for Super Bowl week 2011 compared to 2010 and reported that sales of plasma TVs alone increased 45% by units sold and 11% by dollars made.
But big sales mean big environmental trouble. The most recent data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that while 27.2 million TVs are ready for disposal, only 4.6 million of them get collected for recycling. Many people are puzzled by what to do with the old set once the new one arrives. If you’re among them, here are some suggestions.
Don’t toss it in the trash. TVs contain toxic substances that are harmful to human health and the environment. For older cathode ray tube TVs, the culprit is lead. In LCD and plasma sets, it’s mercury. If TVs are placed in the same waste stream as your household garbage, these heavy metals can leach out of landfills and contaminate soil and groundwater. Also keep in mind the non biodegradable materials in TVs that accumulate in landfills. To address potential risks to human and environmental health, 25 states have passed legislation that governs the disposal of electronic waste; many ban TVs from landfills and incinerators.
Instead, make some cash. Inspect your TV. If the screen is intact, the picture clear and you have the power cord and remote, consider selling it. Just be sure to note any defects in your advertisement.
Or, do a good deed. By donating your working TV to a family member, friend or charitable organization, you benefit others by providing them with equipment they otherwise could not afford. Reuse increases the life of these items and delays their entrance into the waste stream. However, since the switch to digital broadcasting, not all nonprofits will accept analog sets, so check with the organization first.
Even a broken TV deserves a noble end. If your TV is inoperable, find a community electronics recycling fundraiser to properly dispose of your old set. The economic slowdown has taken a bite out of nonprofit budgets, so recycling your TV can benefit an organization in need while also protecting the environment.
Take back this TV, please. If your new TV is being delivered, ask the retailer to haul away and recycle your old set. Many retailers recycle TVs for free or a small handling fee, regardless of brand or condition. Several manufacturers will also take back unwanted TVs. Visit the electronics retailer or manufacturer’s website to learn more about their recycling services and take-back programs.
Keep it local. Many cities accept TVs as part of their electronics recycling programs. Some have designated electronic waste collection sites, while others periodically organize collection events. Check your city’s website to find out where to drop off your TV or have it collected.
Finally, look into whether an electronic recycler has a facility nearby. These companies typically contract with businesses, cities, or other groups to handle large volumes of electronic waste, but they may accept materials directly from individuals. Depending on the company, some accept electronics at any time, while others specify days for public drop-offs or host collection events with local partners.
When done properly, recycling TVs helps to conserve natural resources by reclaiming and reusing materials. Unfortunately, not all electronics recyclers adhere to industry best practices. No matter how you decide to recycle your TV, make sure it’s done safely and responsibly by asking these questions:
- Is the recycler certified? A recycler certified to either the R2 or e-Stewards standard is dedicated to observing rigorous environmental, health and safety procedures.
- Does the recycler have partners? Some recyclers collect electronic waste but don’t process it. When you drop off your TV, ask: What happens after collection? Who will handle the equipment? Do they have partners, and if so, are they regularly audited to ensure environmentally and socially responsible recycling?
If you’re making room for a new TV this Super Bowl season, remember there are plenty of options for giving your old one a fitting and respectful end. Dumping it in the garbage is not one of them.
Good resource to check out: Construction Junction is working with eLoop llc to offer free electronic waste (e-waste) recycling for certain items including TVs. CJ's page has a list of what they will accept. -- Lizabeth Gray