After the early morning garage sale shoppers were long gone, after the good-quality items had been put up for sale on Craigslist, after the rest of our stuff had been taken to Goodwill for one massive donation, it was still there like my very own stalker. It was our old television set, which we could neither sell or donate nor, apparently, throw away on the side of the road. We’d tried to get rid of it, but to no avail. Now, I was starting to feel like the old TV was a third child – a big, lazy, broken child.

From Treasure to Trash

The story of this TV starts with my first wedding anniversary. Up until that point, my husband and I had been watching television on the old 13-inch set he’d bought during his junior year of college. After both our parents sent us some very unexpected – and appreciated – anniversary cash, we decided to use the money to upgrade our TV.

What materialized was my first nose-to-the-grindstone negotiating experience at a big box retailer, where I managed to talk the store manager into giving me a floor model with a missing remote for 60 percent off retail. At the time, the set was top of the line.

It worked like a dream for more than five and a half years until, inexplicably, it failed to turn on the day after the Super Bowl (thank you, TV gods, for some very serendipitous timing). I’d been writing scores of tech articles for an Internet publisher, and knew exactly what was ailing the old set: a blown capacitor on the power board. However, even though I knew what the problem was, I didn’t know how to fix it. We called around several TV repair shops, but all of them were quoting me $75, $100 or more to replace the capacitor. Had I known how to do it myself, it would have cost me less than $10; the idea of paying ten times that was simply unacceptable.

In a fit of financial freewheeling, my husband and I decided to upgrade to a new model. TVs had come a long way in the intervening years, and we wanted to take advantage of that. So, we bought a new set (I got another great deal that prevented me from feeling any buyer’s remorse), and moved the old TV into the garage, hoping to figure out something to do with it.

When Donations Don’t Work

Our first thought was to donate to a place like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Vietnam Veterans of America. Surely, we figured, one of these charities would be able to fix the TV cheaply and sell it for far more than they’d spent to repair it. But I quickly learned that none of those organizations take broken electronics, no matter how easy they should be to fix.

When Garage Sales Don’t Work

Our broken TV lingered for months on Craigslist, going through two ad cycles before I finally gave up. Instead, I started hoping someone would buy the set at our garage sale. I put a sign on the TV that read:

This TV has a broken capacitor. If you are handy with a soldering iron, it should be easy to fix. I just don’t know how and am too lazy to figure it out.

We had one bite – a middle-aged Hispanic man who said he’d pay $10 for the set – but he never materialized with the pickup truck he said he’d need to haul it away.

When Putting It On The Side Of The Road Doesn’t Work

With our garage sale wrapped up, we decided to put the old TV on the side of the road, leaving the sign by means of explanation. By this point, we were no longer looking to get money or even a tax receipt in exchange for the set; we just wanted it gone. We were hoping someone would pick it up if only to scrap for parts.

Obviously, we were delusional.

After two weeks, we received an official complaint letter from our neighborhood’s HOA asking us to remove the eyesore from the tree lawn. So much for that.

How To Get Rid of Stuff Without Pissing Off Your Neighbors

It quickly felt like we were running out of options. So, I turned to the Internet for help.

  • The first site I came across was one called The Freecycle Network. With nearly nine million members, Freecycle pledges to help people get rid of their old stuff and, in many cases, get “new to you” stuff as well. If someone wants it – and nobody wanted my TV – they aren’t charged anything.
  • Once called EcoSquid, is another site that tries to connect buyers with sellers – or in my case, giver-away-ers. Unfortunately, the new uSell site focuses primarily on mobile gadgets (think cell phones, eReaders, etc) that have intrinsic value – which I doubt my broken TV had.

At this point, I realized that giving away my old set intact wasn’t likely. My husband had simultaneously been calling around to scrap metal places and TV repair shops to see if they wanted our TV for parts, but none of them did. Our only option was to find a place to get rid of our TV in an environmentally-friendly way.

Finding Places That Taken Broken Donations

Turns out, finding somewhere that would taken my TV for recycling purposes wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. Dozens of sites pledge to help people like me find ecologically-responsible places to get rid of stuff. Here are some of my favorite:

  • Earth911 – Breaks search results down based on location, type of donation, curbside pick-up, and mail-in programs
  • 1800Recycling – You can search for recycling programs for everything from electronics to hazardous materials and yard waste based on your zip code
  • Plug-In To eCycling – This EPA program focuses on retailers, manufacturers, and service providers who accept electronics for recycling; some only accept their own products, while others will take just about anything

It was the EPA site that helped me realize that the answer was under my nose all along. Best Buy, which had sold me that old TV years ago, indeed offers an ecycling program (it would have accepted my television even if I hadn’t bought it from their store, so long as it met their requirements). My husband and I hauled our old set to Best Buy, knowing that it would be recycling responsibly; if you want to make sure a local organization is responsibly getting rid of your old electronics, follow this link to the FAQs section from E-Cycling Central.

Reader, how do you get rid of your old electronics? Do you always do it responsibly (environmentally speaking)?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke