How to Recycle TVs: Environmentally Responsible Options

old television sets await recycling in China

Ryan Pyle / Getty Images

TVs can be recycled, and while the process may involve some legwork, it’s often reasonably easy—and easily worth the trouble compared with the alternative.

An unwanted TV can feel like an albatross around your neck, especially if it’s an old cathode-ray tube (CRT) set, which tends to be heavier and bulkier than newer TVs. Yet there are a few ways to responsibly dispose of a TV, depending largely on the TV’s condition and your location. If the TV still works, the best option may be to sell or donate it rather than skipping ahead to recycling. If it doesn’t work, though, or if you have difficulty finding someone who wants it, you still have other environmentally responsible options.

Like many electronic devices, TVs contain a variety of materials such as plastic, heavy metals, and other toxins that can pose a pollution risk if not dealt with properly. Recycling of TVs and other e-waste is required by law in 25 U.S. states, and in some states, TVs are banned from landfills entirely. Even if you face no legal consequences for tossing a TV into the trash, however, there are also practical and ethical reasons why recycling is a better decision.

Here is a closer look at TV recycling, including how you can get your TV to a recycling center, how the recycling process actually works, and how you can find new uses for an old TV that still has life left in it.

TV Recycling

TVs contain both potentially harmful and potentially valuable materials. The key to recycling TVs and other electronic devices is efficiently separating the different materials inside so they can be dealt with individually.

When TVs first arrive at a recycling center, they’re often checked to see if they can be repaired and reused, since that’s typically better than breaking them down for recycling. If they aren’t viable, they’re dismantled to separate major components like the screen, plastic shell, and metal frame.

The remains of your TV may go through a shredder, with magnets helping remove steel and iron from the jumble. Other mechanical processes can filter out additional metals, including aluminum, copper, gold, silver, tin, and titanium, while water-separation technology helps divide plastics and glass. Once the components are isolated, they can be sold for use in new electronics.

How to Recycle TVs

Electronic waste recycling
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TVs may be recyclable, but that doesn’t mean they can go in your curbside recycling bin. It is a good idea to check if your local recycling or waste-management authority accepts e-waste in some form, like special pickup days or drop-off events; just don’t expect it to be quite as easy as putting out your weekly paper and plastic recycling.

While some electronic devices like cell phones are commonly free to recycle, be ready to pay a fee for TV recycling. That might seem unfair: You’re giving away a TV full of useful materials to be recycled and reused, so why should you have to pay anything?

There are valuable materials inside a TV, but generally in small quantities that require significant effort to extract. Combined with the bulky size and heavy weight of many TVs, this adds expense to the recycling process. CRTs can be particularly troublesome, since they contain lead and must be dismantled by hand rather than shredded. The fee for recycling a TV is typically modest or at least manageable, though, and it’s a one-time cost versus the ongoing cost to environmental health from disposing of a TV improperly.


Recycling a TV often means physically transporting it somewhere, but before you lug it around, be sure to bundle up and tie the power cord so no one trips while carrying it. If the TV is especially large or heavy, consider asking someone to help you carry it.

But where? You could start by checking with your local sanitation authority—ask if there are any nearby drop-off locations that accept e-waste for recycling. Some recycling sites accept only certain devices and not large TVs, so ask specifically if they’ll take your type and size of TV. Ask about any fees, too, so you’ll be prepared before you arrive. In addition to permanent drop-off sites, ask if there are any special collection days or recycling events in which TVs are accepted.

Some electronics retailers also offer take-back programs. Best Buy takes many e-waste items free of charge, for example, but charges a $30 fee for TVs. (There are no store drop-off fees in California, according to the company’s website, and no TVs are accepted for recycling at Best Buy stores in Connecticut or Pennsylvania.) Best Buy will also pick up an old TV from your home in some places—it charges $30 and up if the pickup is part of a home delivery of a new TV, or $100 to pick up your old TV without a qualifying purchase of a new one. Many other retailers also accept certain kinds of e-waste for recycling, but that doesn’t always include all TVs, so call first.

The manufacturer of your TV might be able to help, too. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists several examples on its page about electronics donation and recycling. Some manufacturers accept old TVs by mail (see below), while others partner with outside recycling centers or drop-off sites.

Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio work with Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), for example, which accounts for about 5% of all e-waste recycled in the U.S., according to its website. ERI offers a locator tool to help you figure out which nearby drop-off sites accept which types of e-waste, as does the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM), which can help you find drop-off sites for recycling TVs by brands including Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Philips, Sharp, and Toshiba.

Panasonic Opens Eco Technology Recycling Facility Centre
Panasonic technology recycling facility in Kato, Japan. Junko Kimura / Getty Images

Mail-In Recycling

Many manufacturers now offer mail-in TV recycling programs through their e-waste recycling partners. Both LG and Sony send you to ERI’s website, as do other major TV makers partnered with MRM. Once there, you can enter your ZIP code and TV brand, select your TV from a list, enter its estimated weight, and print a prepaid shipping label. TVs from lesser-known brands may have mail-back options, too—if you have an Atyme, Element, or Sceptre TV, for instance, you might be able to mail it back for recycling through Wisconsin-based Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations

Ways to Reuse Old TVs

If your TV still works, your outlook for responsibly discarding it is even better. The same recycling options still apply, but you might also be able to find someone who will take it for free, as long as it’s in decent condition. You could start by asking family, friends, and neighbors if they want your TV, or by calling thrift stores and charities to see if they’ll take it. Some charity retail stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity accept certain types of working TVs, but call before you take it there.

Some charities also accept or even pick up certain TVs for donation, including the Vietnam Veterans of America and some local kidney charities like Atlanta-based American Kidney Services, which supports the American Kidney Fund.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, a group called Donation Town can help connect you with a charity that might want your TV.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How much does it cost to recycle a TV?

    To recycle a TV using your municipal sanitation department, fees are typically between $5 and $10, depending on the TV's size. Many cities also have free drop-off locations, so do your research to find the best option.

  • What types of TVs can be recycled?

    All TVs can be recycled. However, not all TVs can be recycled at every facility. For instance, manufacturers usually only accept their own equipment for recycling. Use tools like ERI's locator and call ahead to confirm that your TV will be accepted.