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Help File: Recycling Old Electronics

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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, July 5, 2009

QI've got an old analog TV collecting dust at home. How can I recycle or safely dispose of it?

ATh e environmental hazards of old television sets and other consumer-electronics detritus -- for instance, lead in a TV's cathode-ray tube and mercury in a flat-panel screen -- haven't grown less serious. But your choices for minimizing those risks have improved since I wrote about them last summer.

First, you can try to sell or donate the old set. Several readers have said they've found a home for an old TV through the Freecycle site (http://freecycle.org).

If that doesn't work, most cities and counties allow residents to drop off old electronics for safe disposal. But drop-off events may not happen every week and may require a trek to a distant trash-transfer station; check your local government's Web site or call its recycling office for details.

Most of those programs charge a small fee, $10 to $20 a set, to cover the cost of breaking down a TV safely. But you may be able to lower your cost if you use a store or manufacturer's recycling program. Best Buy (http://bestbuy.com/recycling) accepts two items a day per household; although it charges $10 for most TV sets, it provides a $10 store gift card in return.

Some manufacturers will take back their old products free at designated sites, with items from other vendors accepted for a small fee. Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba (http://mrmrecycling.com); LG (http://wm.com/lg); Samsung (http://samsung.com/recyclingdirect); and Sony (http://sony.com/recycle), among others, have set up recycling programs along these lines. You can also

consult a site run by the Consumer Electronics Assocation, myGreenElectronics (http://mygreenelectronics.org), which offers a searchable database of services.

For an independent evaluation of recycling efforts, see the grades posted by the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (http://electronicstakeback.com).

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.


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