In the United States, 55 percent of homes now have more than three television sets. In a nation full of TV lovers, it's unsurprising people buy so many new TVs every year, but this buying habit also creates a lot of waste. If you have just bought a new TV set, find out what you need to do with the old one, and learn why recycling these unwanted appliances is such an important task.
The problem with unwanted television sets
Television technology changes rapidly. As lighter flat-screen televisions have become cheaper and more popular, larger, bulky sets have quickly disappeared from American homes. What's more, as American homes switch to digital reception, older television sets generally become redundant, forcing homeowners to buy new equipment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that Americans get rid of around 20 million television sets every year.
Electronic equipment takes a long time to biodegrade in a landfill site. Experts estimate that plastic can take as long as 500 years to break down. What's more, glass doesn't really break down at all. To make matters worse, manufacturers use several harmful chemicals in electronic devices like television sets. For example, manufacturers once commonly used lead in television cathode ray tubes. When these appliances go to landfill, these harmful chemicals can easily get into the soil and water supply.
Finding ways to recycle old televisions
Some state authorities now ban television sets (and other electronic waste) from landfill sites. In these states, homeowners must find ways to recycle unwanted electronics.
Many electronics manufacturers now support recycling schemes. These companies fund recycling centers, where consumers can drop off unwanted items for recycling. By January 2015, one company had recycled more than 464 million pounds of electronic waste across the United States. You can go online and search a directory for details of a drop-off center in your area. In most cases, these centers will accept TVs from any manufacturer, even if one company funds the initiative, and you don't normally need to pay anything to drop off your old TV.
When you buy a new TV, check with the retailer for details of a recycling scheme. Some retailers will allow you to leave your unwanted TV set with them for recycling. There is sometimes a small charge for this service, but some retailers will offset this with a discount on your next TV. Some companies will also collect old TV sets when they deliver your new appliance.
Check the EPA's website for details of ongoing recycling schemes.
Selling an unwanted television
Of course, if your television is in good working order, you could try to sell the appliance to raise some extra cash. Crucially, it's important to manage your expectations when it comes to price. You'll probably need to seriously discount the price of your second-hand television if you want to attract a buyer. The price of new televisions is continually decreasing, and buyers will also worry that the appliance could develop a fault.
What happens to your recycled television set?
Specialist companies recycle thousands of television sets each month. These recycling service centers painstakingly dismantle old televisions to deal with the different parts.
Manufacturers can process around 90 percent of the material in a television when producing new appliances, which means that recycling companies only need to dispose of the remaining 10 percent. For example, manufacturers often crush the glass used in a cathode ray tube to use in a new television set. Similarly, manufacturers can also reuse iron, steel, copper, gold and platinum components found in unwanted televisions.
If you're buying a new TV, the chances are you probably have an older set to deal with. Take time to research your recycling options, and make sure you dispose of electronic waste responsibly.