Where Did All The Old Televisions Go?

by Katy on July 1, 2009 · 17 comments

When television went all digital did you take it as an opportunity to buy a new plasma screen TV and scrap your old one?  I for one am seeing a lot of curbside televisions sporting free signs, yet there don’t seem to be many takers.

Where are all the old TV’s going?

Take Back My TV.com writes that:

Currently, about 85% of the old electronics that we dispose of in the US end up in our landfills each year.  But TVs and other electronics don’t belong in our landfills, even if it is still legal in many states to trash old TVs. The toxics in TVs can leach into and contaminate groundwater and surface streams. Plus, there are many metals and other materials in these products which should be recycled, not trashed.

The Electronics Take Back Coalition was featured in a NY Times article yesterday that addressed the crisis of dealing with the obscene numbers of unwanted electronics.

I write on a 2005 Macintosh laptop which looks like a wheelbarrow when compared to the current models. But here’s a little secret . . . it works just fine. And you know something else? The older televisions only needed digital converter boxes to be able to work, and the government provided two $40 vouchers for anyone who asked for one. Our converter boxes cost $5o (minus the $40, bringing the cost down to $10 apiece ) and work great! We now get multiple channels, (mostly crap) and perfect reception.

So go ahead and enjoy the video above, and click on the link at the end to sign a petition to get the television companies to offer recycling programs.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

WilliamB July 1, 2009 at 7:24 am

My little TV is almost 10 years old. Pretty good, especially for one with a VCR attached. I’m acquiring a collection of TVs, gathered from others who upgrade before their existing TVs break.

My county takes TVs for recycling. I hope they really recycle or at least remove the hazmat, and don’t just ship it to a third world waste dump.


Kris July 1, 2009 at 7:50 am

This re-convinces me that there is no need to ever BUY a TV. I’ve inherited all three of mine except one, and that little 13″ that I did buy lasted over 10 years. I didn’t own all 3 at the same time – there was a 25 y.o. B&W that I inherited and then had for 5 years until it bit the dust, which was replaced by the 13″ which I later gave to my mom, and now my ex-boyfriend’s old TV that has a great picture and seems indestructible. Why do we need bigger/better if what we have works just fine?


GLM July 1, 2009 at 12:11 pm

My MAC is from 2001 – I remember buying it before 9/11. Still runs fine, I see no reason to replace it.

Same thing with my TV. I have cable, and I figure that I’ll use the TV till it breaks. I paid cashey money for it and I want to get all my money’s worth!!


Sierra July 1, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I have one of those old TVs in my living room – the one my dad bought for me 12 years ago when I was taking film classes in college. I’ve been thinking about getting rid of it because we never use it anymore. I missed the memo about TV going digital. Oops!


Meg from FruWiki July 1, 2009 at 1:29 pm

@Kris My husband and I have never bought a t.v. ourselves, either — nor have we ever thrown one away! We both brought one each from home. When I met him, he was using his to hold his laundry basket up in the closet because he didn’t have cable. We gave his away and used mine for a while — esp. when we finally got cable. Then his aunt gave us hers and we gave my old away. Then his brother bought us one as a gift — which was thoughtful of him, even if we didn’t really need it. Then we started watching stuff online more, got rid of cable, and gave both the remaining televisions away — along with the VCRs and DVD players.

And I got to say, it’s nice not to have them. No more hunting for remotes, no more flashing lights on the VCR, and a lot less cable clutter! And it’s much easier to rearrange our living room on a whim now!


Julie July 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

We have a local restuarant/take away in our town which has an old TV in it that has been converted to a fish tank! It is one of the old 60s furniture piece type tvs. It sure is a lot more peaceful in the take away sitting area watching the fish tank tv than a regular one!


Kristen@The Frugal Girl July 1, 2009 at 4:10 pm

We have a ginormous 587 pound (at least that’s what it felt like when we carried it into our house) hand-me-down TV from my husband’s co-worker. It’s the farthest thing from a flat screen, but we only use it for game purposes, as we don’t have cable.

We do have a digital converter box we can use if we REALLY need to see something, but otherwise we just don’t watch TV.


Paul Freeman July 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm

The State of Oregon was well prepared and ahead of the curve when it comes to recycling all electronics in the state. As of January, 2009 all electronic stores or any store the sells electronics must have a program to accept old electronics for recycle programs. In addition most of the counties have a program set up to accept electronics for recycle purposes.

I wonder how the other states are doing in setting something up like Oregon did?


Kate July 1, 2009 at 6:17 pm

The sad thing is that recycling programs don’t always work as advertised. Lots of our electronics that we *think* are being safely recycled, are actually sent to China and India were they’re burned.


It’s best to use electronics as long as you can…


Karen July 1, 2009 at 6:44 pm

California enacted a law in 2003 which mandated recyling of batteries, electronics and e-waste when the state outlawed dumping toxic stuff in “regular” landfills. Our county alone has a couple dozen places for drop off of batteries etc. Several times a year, the county holds “toxic drop off days”. In theory, this should keep all that bad stuff out of the landfill, but of course there’s no real way to regulate a lot of this, since there are no garbage inspectors checking out what you throw away. So while we do have a lot of existing programs with the potential to foil toxic by-products of e-waste leeching into the earth and water, we also have to trust that consumers are doing their part.

A smarter part of the law was getting businesses like HP and IBM et al on board. Electronics folk have to come up with plans to dispose of stuff, including paying recyling fees. There is one program for forcing manufacturers to take back the old computer or whatever, and issue a credit toward a new one. Also, many schools partner with the community, and lots of serviceable but not cutting edge computers and TVs end up at school. Everyone’s happy.

Just as an aside, I noticed no TVs sitting around curbside, when TV went digital. Could be that people had already traded in their old ones. Our TV is 10+ years old and works perfectly. At one point, we thought of getting one with a larger screen but concluded that we are happy with what we’ve got.


Tara Morrison July 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I personally abhor most television programming and live in a tv free house. I know that our small town in southern Alabama has e recycling program and will take everything from batteries to computer components and televisions. I still reccomend everyone try going a month without it and see how much more productive you become.


Solar Power July 1, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I loved all 3 of my “Hand Me Down” TV’s. It saved me a ton of $. But I had to recycle them when the flat screen, more energy efficient Tv’s came out. I guess in 100 years it will pay for itself with the $ I saved on its low energy cost!!


Deborah Kafoury July 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

In Portland, OR we are lucky to have an organization like Free Geek (www.freegeek.org) that recycles tvs and computers. Even better, you can volunteer there, help dissemble and restore old computers and earn a refurbished computer for time.


Kate July 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Came across a ‘how to recycle your tv’ article today at the Big Green Purse.



Angela July 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm

The TakeBackMyTV campaign has already convinced Sony, LG, and Samsung to offer takebacks, meaning they’ll accept and recycle their old products for their entire lifetimes. I wrote a post about how to dispose of your old TV responsibly back in February, when we were first supposed to go digital. You can get all the facts here:


A Squirrel Most Frugal July 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I keep hoping to see a large TV left on the curb. I’d like to upgrade the size. I am still using my old TV. I bought it back in ’02 for about $400. I try to get a lot of use out of my goods. I take the cost I paid for an item divided by the number of years I have used it. $400/7 years = $57 dollars per year to run my TV. I figure that is reasonable. I don’t bother with cable TV and with programing-on-demand developing on the Internet, I wonder how long cable and broadcast really have. I don’t watch much TV anyway; I just have two or three favorites.


Melissa July 13, 2009 at 7:50 am

I have been considering buying a new tv…not that we watch that much. We had been watching lots of dvds, but because our usage has upped so much satellite tv (our only option in our location) would be cheaper. I am just wondering if old tvs that still work are hazardous. when I say old tvs, I mean OLD, as in 70’s or 80’s console type, and one from 1995 (our newest). We still use both, but if they are hazardous to run, I’d get a new one on ebay….maybe!


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