How to Recycle Large Electronics

Large electronics include all the heavy electronics we plug into power outlets. Big-screen TVs, office copiers/printers and audio receivers/amplifiers fall into the large electronics category for recycling purposes because they contain many of the same wires and computer components that are valued in the recycling market.

Find recycling guides for other materials

Large Electronics Recycling Preparation

  1. If it’s possible to restore the factory settings of your electronics, this should be your first step. Most smart TVs and many printers now contain personal information that you may not want others to access. Performing a factory reset will delete that data to help protect your privacy.
  2. Unplug large electronics from the electronic outlet and bundle up the cord using either a twist tie or the cord itself. Tape it to the unit. This step is important to help prevent anyone carrying the heavy electronic unit from tripping while moving it.
  3. If your large electronic item still works, consider donating it. Reuse is a great way to reduce the ecological impact of any manufactured product. Secondhand stores will often accept used electronics in working condition. Most donation outlets will not accept cathode ray tube (CRT, or tube) televisions.
  4. Use a dolly to transport electronics to your car for transport to a recycler. Electronics that have a cathode ray tube (CRT) contain hazardous metals like lead and mercury. These metals are harmless during use, but potentially toxic if you drop or damage the device releasing the metals in your house.
  5. If you work in an office, ask your company’s IT department to schedule an electronics recycling event once a year. Many offices have lots of computers to recycle, and an waste recycler that picks up office electronics is likely to also collect consumer products like TVs at no cost.

Find organizations near you that accept large electronics using our Recycling Locator.

Why Recycle Large Electronics

  • In 2014, the Consumer Electronics Association conducted a survey showing 46 percent of U.S. households still have at least one CRT device even though they are now incredibly hard to find in retail stores.
  • While the U.S. increased the recycling of electronic waste by more than 50 percent since 2000, we still recycle less than half of our electronics..
  • Large electronics contain valuable precious metals like gold, lead and copper.

Frequent Large Electronic Recycling Questions

Can I recycle large electronics in my curbside recycling program?

No. You cannot put large electronics in your recycling bin, but they may be eligible for bulk waste collection in your area. Call your local solid waste office to find out if bulk waste is collected, what items are included, and schedule a pickup.

What types of recyclable material do large electronics contain?

For CRT televisions and computer monitors, the primary component is the lead-based tube that contains four to eight pounds of lead. Circuit boards, the plastic case and the cord — which is made of encased copper — are recyclable. Printers and copiers also contain circuit boards with valuable metals.

Can I make money recycling large electronics?

It depends on where you live. In the case of CRT screens, you may have to pay for recycling. Your best bet for recycling large electronics is to recycle small electronics, such as cell phones, at the same time. These smaller electronics are often valuable and will offset the costs for a recycler; the combination will decrease the chances that you’ll have to pay for recycling.

Don’t try to avoid the cost of recycling your electronics by throwing electronics in the garbage; that’s against the law in half of U.S. states.

If you’re recycling a printer, you can make money recycling ink and toner cartridges.

Do electronics manufacturers offer recycling?

Yes, most electronics companies have partnerships with retailers to make recycling easier. Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba joined forces to create MRM Recycling for recycling their products, Dell has partnered with Goodwill for the Dell Reconnect program through participating Goodwill locations. Best Buy and Staples will accept any brand of electronics for recycling, although neither store accepts CRT screens.

What are the electronics recycling certifications I should be asking about?

The two most common electronics recycling certifications for North American recyclers are the Sustainable Electronics Recycling International’s (SERI) R2 Standard and the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) e-Stewards.

R2 (originally R2 Solutions) has been around since 2008, and focuses on certifying the recycling process, data destruction and the tracking of materials throughout the recycling process. BAN has been certifying recyclers since 2009 to ensure that no electronics are exported to non-OECD countries.

There are electronics recyclers that aren’t R2 or e-Stewards certified, but to make sure that you are recycling products responsibly, check the directories for these certified companies: R2 Recyclers and e-Stewards.

Why is it so hard to recycle CRT screens?

CRT TVs and monitors have glass tubes infused with lead to conduct electricity, for which the Environmental Protection Agency has special requirements for processing. This means higher costs for recycling. Since the material is only used for CRT screens, the demand for CRT glass is limited. There are few recyclers in the U.S. that specialize in CRT recycling, so companies that accept them are recycling them at a loss.

How are large electronics recycled?

The first step for an electronics recycler is to test products to see if they can be repaired or refurbished.

Non-working televisions and monitors must be separated from the screen components. This means a recycler will disassemble the plastic case and remove the CRT glass. Once the glass is removed, the remaining parts of large electronics are shredded into pellets and optical sorters separate plastics and valuable metals. At this point, the raw materials are sold to manufacturers for use in new products.

Do any states require large electronics recycling?

As of 2017, 25 U.S. states require recycling of some forms of electronics. Of those, 17 have banned them from landfills. The good news is that every time a new law is passed, recycling becomes that much easier for residents in that state.

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