How to Recycle TVs

An Overview on Recycling TVs

Very few of us have lived without television. Although studies have shown that too much TV can make us dumber, zoning out in front of the boob tube is a great way to unwind and relax. But our home entertainment habit could be added to big environmental problems. Televisions, like computer monitors, can contain up to 27% lead, a toxic heavy metal that can pollute ecosystems and poison humans when not handled properly.[1] They can also contain other metals like steel, aluminum, and copper as well as glass and plastic - all of which are valuable and should be recovered. In 2007 alone, more than 27 million TVs were discards, and only 18% of these were recycled.[2]

The problem of discarded televisions became even more intense with the American phase-out of analog televisions signals in favor of digital TV in 2009. Other countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan, China, the UK, and Brazil have either already made the switch, or will do so in the next year or two. As a result, the quantity of televisions requiring recycling has increased tremendously.

So, how to you recycle old TVs? Here’s how:

  • Repair or upgrade: If your television is just on the fritz but still relatively new and energy efficient, it is definitely more sustainable to have it repaired. Older, inefficient TVs (especially CRTs) are a little less worth the effort. ConsumerReports GreenerChoices has a guide to upgrading your television and improving your TVs reception. But if it’s the analog television problem you’re struggling with, get yourself a set-top box so that you can watch digital TV on your analog unit.
  • Sell your old TV: Hold a garage sale or post a message online, via Craigstlist, if your television still works and you want a little cash to get rid of it.
  • Donate or recycle: When the preceding options don’t work for you, consider either donating or recycling your television using the guidance we’ve outlined here.

Donate old televisions

If your television still works well, spread the gift of entertainment by giving your old television away. But remember that just as you may be struggling to use your old analog television, most charities will be facing the same challenges. Most are therefore no longer accepting donations of analog TVs.

  • Local secondhand store: Check with your local secondhand store to see if they will accept your used television for sale in their store. We’ve got a list of some of the most popular in our recycling database.
  • Favorite charity: Ask your local church, women’s shelter, hospital, or boy’s and girl’s club if they are in need of a used television. They will likely be grateful for the donation.

How to recycle TVs

Inefficient televisions and obsolete, non-functioning TVs most often just need to be recycled. Just like computer monitors, there are several options you can try:

  • Retail take-back programs: You may find that when you purchase a new television that the store will take back your used TV for recycling. This is a very convenient solution for those in the market for a replacement television and we’ve got a list of potential programs in our recycling database.
  • Local electronic waste recycling programs:Your local municipality may have laws the prohibit this kind of e-waste from entering the landfill. As a result, they may have established their own recycling collection sites or rely on private companies to do the work. Our database of recyclers has a list of these types of programs and companies.

Safe electronic waste recyclers

As with any e-waste challenge, you’ll want to choose an ethical recycler that promotes safe and fair methods for recycling your electronic waste. The bulk of all e-waste is sent overseas where the components are dismantled (sometimes smashed apart) by people (often children) without proper personal protection making less than 25 cents an hour.[3] Without safe disposal regulations, these countries are often saddled with the toxic burden that comes with electronics recycling. To ensure that you’re not contributing to overseas pollution problems, look for recyclers that use responsible recycling methods.

  • The Basel Action Network (BAN) is an international environmental organization working to reduce toxic manufacturing and disposal. 
  • Alternatively, you can ask any potential recyclers a series of questions to determine whether they use safe and fair e-waste handling methods. Check out E-cycling Central’s list of questions.



1 Electronics Reuse and Recycling. (2000, October). Retrieved June 29, 2010, from US Environmental Protection Agency:

2 Ecycle Televisions. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2010, from US Environmental Protection Agency:

3 E-Waste & Recycling Laws - Protecting Taxpayers, our Environment and Public Health while Creating an Incentive for Greener Design. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2010, from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition:

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