Eco Talk: What you contribute when you recycle old TVs

Eco Talk: What you contribute when you recycle old TVs


I find it unbelievable that by some estimates, 400 million units of consumer electronics are “retired” each year. Hopefully, this retirement is responsible and the electronics are not left on the roadside or casually tossed into the trash.

As electronics are upgraded, consider recycling broken or out-of-date items. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (, electronics are made from valuable resources and materials, which use energy to produce.

When upgrading to newer technology, households are challenged to either dispose of working older, obsolete electronics or store them. Obsolete electronics are items that are no longer wanted even though they may still be in good working order, and are referred to as e-waste. E-waste includes TVs, microwaves, computers, computer monitors, fax machines, copiers, stereo and audio equipment, personal digital assistants, game consoles, cellphones and all the cords that go with each device.

The EPA website indicates that recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent of the electricity used by over 3,500 homes in a year, and for every million cellphones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Have you ever considered what went into the manufacturing of a TV? According to the website, there are four basic parts, which are:

• The exterior, which is made of injection-molded plastic;

• The speaker system, which is made of metals and plastic;

• The picture screen;

• And, finally, a complicated mass of electronics.

Should the TV be an older-style picture tube TV, the glass will have a chemical coating containing lead, while newer flat-screen TVs have liquid crystal materials between two glass plates. The internal electronic components, which we see as “input” and “output” connections, are made of various metals, solder and silicon.

There are many benefits to recycling your unwanted electronics. You will keep potentially hazardous materials out of the waste stream that can end up in landfills, while conserving natural resources such as water and raw minerals mined from the ground. You can also avoid air and water pollution associated with the need to collect raw materials. Additionally, there are connections in all steps to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Older-style computer monitors and televisions with picture tubes contain 4 to 8 pounds of lead in addition to other toxic materials. Newer flat-screen TVs and monitors contain less lead, but more mercury. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition website, 40% of the heavy metals in landfills, like lead, mercury and cadmium, comes from e-waste.

Various sources indicate that approximately 25% of the generated e-waste is recycled properly, with the remaining 75% going to landfills or being incinerated. When old-style picture tube monitors and TVs are improperly disposed of, toxic materials can cause a problem for the environment. For over a decade, Cayuga County has offered a fall electronics recycling event for county residents to responsibly dispose of their accumulated e-waste.

Cayuga County’s Fall Electronics Recycling Plus event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, 1879 W. Genesee St. Road, Aurelius. County residents can bring their obsolete televisions, microwaves, video game systems, computers and associated cords.

A $10 donation is requested for each old-style picture tube TV and computer monitor. Console and projection TVs are a $20 donation. The cost to recycle these has increased because of the amount of lead they contain. If you want to avoid the donation for picture tube TVs and monitors, the Salvation Army on Grant Avenue in Auburn is accepting working TVs for free!

Do you have an older air conditioner, dorm-size refrigerator, dehumidifier or other item containing Freon and weighing under 40 pounds? Bring them with you for recycling at no charge! For a listing of other items accepted, visit

Did you know that the Council for Textile Recycling reports that the average U.S. citizen disposes of approximately 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, and almost all of it can be recycled! The Rescue Mission will be present Oct. 5 to accept old clothing, shoes and small household items. Plus, Tompkins Trust Co. will be providing confidential document shredding!

Please consider the benefits of recycling your e-waste to help sustain the environment for future generations and perhaps create new jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries. For more information about the Oct. 5 electronics recycling event, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County at (315) 255-1183 ext. 238.

Judy Wright is the senior agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. For more information, visit or call (315) 539-9251 ext. 109.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News