That's not to say that recycling TVs (and computer monitors, for that matter) isn't a big challenge. They're bulky, to say the least. A large-screen cathode ray tube (CRT) set can weigh as much as 75 pounds, making it difficult to move, box up for shipping, or load into your trunk for a trip to the recycling center. Large-screen flat panels can weigh upwards of 60 pounds. Second, CRTs and flat-panel TVs contain various toxins and chemicals that can leach into the soil around municipal dumps. If you're willing to do a little legwork, and perhaps pay a small fee, you can recycle your TV with minimal hassle.
Which companies have the best recycling program?
Ideally, some consumer watchdogs say, TV makers should ultimately be on the hook for reclaiming and recycling their outmoded products. In its latest TV Recycling Report Card (published June 2009), the website Take Back My TV gives Sony kudos for being the first major manufacturer to launch a national takeback program, and for expanding its number of collection sites from the previous year. Sony and Samsung receive the highest score, a B minus -- no company receives an A grade. Best Buy, which gets a C plus (up from a D), gets a ratings bump for accepting non-Best Buy brands at its locations (for a fee). Originally, the retailer accepted only Best Buy house brands for recycling. Ten companies receive an F grade for lacking any recycling program whatsoever. You can view the full Recycling Report Card, including individual report cards for each company, at Take Back My TV.
Last year, the EPA launched a "TV Recycling Challenge" that solicited recycling plans from manufacturers and retailers and graded them according to innovation, longevity, consumer outreach and education, responsible recycling practices and total number of pounds of old TVs collected. Participants included Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba. The winner, announced in the fall of 2009, was MRM, a recycling network led by Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba.
Find a recycling drop-off spot near you
So, when all is said and done, what should you do with your old TV or monitor? If it's still usable, you might consider donating it to a local charity, or selling it on a local bulletin board like Craigslist. Note that if you're getting rid of an old analog TV, it may be more difficult to sell or donate, since it now requires a digital converter in order to get a signal. If the TV no longer works or is simply too old to sell or donate, check the Consumer Electronics Association's recycling website, the EPA site, TakeBackMyTV.com or FreeCycle.org for recycling locations near you.