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How to dispose of an old TV

Just about anything is a better course of action than throwing a TV away.
By
September 25, 2022
Old TVs studio
Kevin Convery / Android Authority

Approximately 25 million TVs become obsolete in the US each year, according to ewaste.com.au. That’s a lot of old TVs, and Americans seem to be split between piling them up in their closets and garages, or the even worse option, dumping them in landfills. Less than 20% of American TVs get recycled, it seems we just don’t know how to dispose of an old TV properly. TVs taken to the dump will ultimately be incinerated, causing unnecessary pollution. No wonder so many people are looking for things you can do with an old TV. It’s estimated that 68% of Americans have old electronics—TVs and computers, mostly—stored in their homes because there simply isn’t anything to do with them.

Just about anything is a better course of action than throwing a TV away in the non-recycled trash. So let’s review our non-trashy options.

QUICK ANSWER

One thing you can do with an older TV if it has an HDMI input is connect it to your computer as a second monitor. You will need a graphics card that can support a two-monitor configuration. If it doesn't, however, you can still use it to have a larger monitor for your laptop by connecting its external monitor output to your old TV.


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Recycle it

If a TV can no longer be used, recycling is your greenest option. Many, but not all states require electronics manufacturers to take older models back for proper disposal. Most electronics makers offer voluntary programs. That is, they take older models from consumers even in states that do not require it. But some companies (like JVC and Philips) only offer the program where it is required by law, and some companies have no program at all. Best Buy and Staples have recycling programs, with Best Buy’s being more extensive but also charging fees for picking up larger items. Large cities have electronics recycling but, like the manufacturer takeback programs, they involve bringing the old TV to a collection center unless you can get your whole building to recycle their e-waste at once.

Before dropping off your TV, at a recycling center or anywhere else, make sure you remove your login information from any of the TV’s apps you have used. If the TV is not cooperating with this process, do a full factory reset; this will remove all your personal information, but also all firmware updates the TV may have downloaded since you bought it.

Sell it

When you think about selling a used TV, eBay might be the first place you think of. Prices for used TVs on eBay vary by the size of the unit, its age, and its condition. Major brands also fetch higher bids than the Vizios and the Acers. Take multiple clear pictures of your TV from different angles, and provide as much information as you can about it.

There are other options for selling used electronics (Decluttr, Gazelle, etc.), but they don’t handle TVs. The size and fragility of TVs make it impractical. If eBay is not an option, selling locally is less work since boxing it for shipping won’t be necessary. If you are in any local groups on Facebook, posting your TV for sale there will reach people in your area. Just be honest about the TV’s condition, so as not to waste your neighbor’s time and generate ill will in your community.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill would usually be your first places to donate used items. But Goodwill does not accept TVs at all, and the Salvation Army will only accept those that are less than five years old. This is another situation where your local Facebook group might be of help. In small towns across America, people put unneeded items out by the curb with a sign on them saying FREE. It’s not a good idea to do this with a TV, given the possibility of rain. But advertising a free TV to a group of people who can get to your house easily might be the quickest way to give your old TV a new home.

Use it as a second monitor

This is an interesting option. If your TV has an HDMI input and your desktop computer has a dual-monitor graphics card, you can have that second monitor you’ve always wanted. Alternately, if your laptop has an external monitor output (most do), you can use the TV as a large primary monitor. This would aid any graphics-intensive application. It would also be helpful for people working in a group. The only thing to consider here is the size of your TV. If it’s a 55″ model, it might be difficult to find a place for it on your work desk. Also, it might not look good close-up, since it was designed to be viewed from about eight feet away. Adding a wireless HDMI transmitter to your laptop and TV would be an effective way to work collaboratively on your laptop from anywhere in the room.

Trade it in for a new model

Samsung has a program where they will offer you a credit for any TV you own, regardless of brand or size. The credit will be applied to the price of a new Samsung TV. Your old TV will be taken away by the same delivery people who bring you your new Samsung, at the same time. Something to be aware of is that you will be ordering the new TV at Samsung’s list prices. Almost any big-box store will do better than the manufacturer list price on a TV, and their discount may be more than the credit Samsung is offering. However, if you have a large TV, the convenience of having it taken away for you on the same day you get your new TV, and knowing it is going to be disposed of properly, may make the program worthwhile. You can read the details here.

Neither Sony, nor LG, nor Vizio, nor Hisense advertise any similar program. (Sony had one at one time, but have scaled back the program to eliminate trade-in credits.)

Best Buy has a trade-in program for store credit, but according to their website, the program does not include TVs.


FAQs

Not intentionally, no. But a modern LED TV is lit by LED lights. They have a lifespan of thousands of hours before they begin to dim. No major TV maker has a program to replace LED backlights. So your TV will begin to darken after a few years of regular use. Additionally, new features are regularly designed (8K, HDR, etc.) that might make older TVs seem obsolete even when they aren’t.

Four reasons. The first is the number of recyclable components in a TV that are made of rare materials. Copper is actually becoming scarce, so throwing it away makes no sense. The second reason is the toxic nature of some of the components of TVs, especially older CRT televisions. The third reason is that the world’s landfills are plenty full already. And the fourth reason is that most US e-waste is shipped to Nigeria and China to be incinerated. Those are two places where it is doubtful that sufficient measures to filter the incineration will be in place.

Because the inside of a CRT television tube is lined with lead, cadmium, and other things you do not want in your water. To remove these materials takes skilled labor and heavy machinery.