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Hidden Cost Of Buying HDTVs From Major E-tailers and Discount Stores

September 16th, 2010 · 14 Comments · LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News

(September 16, 2010)  Consumers buy new HDTVs for one of two reasons: to upgrade their present HDTV or replace an old or broken television. Old TVs contain toxic metals and materials including lead and mercury.

Most folks don’t want their old sets (called e-waste) to end up in a local landfill where the toxic materials can pollute their communities. The old TVs need to be disassembled, with toxic and non-toxic components separated and properly recycled.

An HD Guru® investigation of the country’s largest  “discount” retailers, warehouse clubs and etailers revealed they don’t provide any pick-up of old sets or get involved in recycling programs in order to save time, money and effort. This irresponsible corporate behavior no doubt adds to the bottom line and while it might save consumers a few pennies in what they pay for their new TVs in the short run, in the long run we all pay for the damage done and for the inevitable clean-up. Here’s the breakdown:

Wal-Mart

America’s largest retailer boasts everyday low prices on name brand TVs including Samsung, Sony and Panasonic.  HD Guru asked their corporate representative by email what their customers should do with e-waste when purchasing a new HDTV at one of their stores. We were directed to a Samsung website. The website explains about Samsung’s regional recycling offices. Unfortunately they only accept Samsung branded products. The closest one to our Long Island location (part of the NY metro area) is 32.6 miles from us, requiring two toll bridge crossings. How does Wal-mart expect most folks to have access to a vehicle that can hold a 150 lb. CRT TV or projector and only own a Samsung TV?  Buying a TV at Wal-Mart may or may not be a few dollars cheaper than at other retailers that provide free delivery along with pickup and recycling of your old TV, because they are offloading the expense to the consumer!

Sam’s Club

A subsidiary of Wal-Mart, it is a warehouse club similar to Costco. Like Wal-Mart there is no store recycling program.

Amazon.com

No recycling program or old TV pick-up when they deliver a new large screen. Like Wal-mart they directed us to a website that tells consumers what their recycling options are through independent third parties. All require customer delivery of their unwanted or broken TVs to centers.

Costco

No recycling program. You are on your own. Costco, like Amazon and Wal-Mart are publicly traded companies selling very large quantities of HDTVs.

J&R Music World

J&R is a single location brick and mortar New York retailer and national e-tailer of consumer electronics and HDTVs. According to the representative we spoke to, they have no e-waste recycling program. Like Wal-Mart and Costco, the consumer is on his own.

Sears

Sears will take your old TV for recycling with a few conditions. First, you must have the HDTV delivered by Sears. If purchased in-store the charge is $69 for “basic” to the door delivery or $139 for delivery that includes unpacking and connecting the TV to the wall outlet and your cable or satellite tuner. You can pay an additional $10 for the Sears driver to remove your old TV for recycling.

According to the Sears website, select brands of large screen HDTVs offer free basic delivery if purchased on-line instead of inside a Sears store, however, you must still pay the $10 remove and recycle fee.

Best Buy

Best Buy offers in-store recycling of e-waste including TVs up to 32″. Best Buy charges $10 fee for each in-store TV (or monitor) dropped off at a Best Buy location, however they will give the customer a $10 Best Buy gift card in exchange.

Any size old TVs are accepted for free when Best Buy (BB) delivers a new HDTV. BB offer free delivery of any HDTV priced at $999 or above. We commend Best Buy for their excellent, industry leading recycling policies.

Your Local Government

Currently there is a mish mash of recycling requirements nationwide that vary among cities and towns. We suggest you contact your local sanitation department to learn how to participate with a local TV recycling programs. Take into consideration the proper disposal and recycling of your broken or unwanted old TV before making your final purchase decision.

Edited By Michael Fremer

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • throckmorton

    Nothing has changed. I’ve been looking for 2 days now, trying to find a place to responsibly dispose of my old TV. It reminds me of the game of “Fizbin” on the old Star Trek show. Guess I’ll try Best Buy. WalMart sucks, as usual; nothing but lip service.

  • Mike Bauer

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about from those who slam him for pointing this out? He is doing an analysis, no where does he say this ought to be a law, requirement, etc.

    Trisatn and Bill get real, he is doing a competitive analysis against a criterion he finds important isn’t that his prerogative as an American, it’s his site after-all.

  • Keith

    Check out Paul’s TV. They offer free haul away and responsible recycling along with free delivery when you purchase any TV over 40″.

  • UniversalCode

    Tristan,

    You must be a miserable human being. What’s wrong with wanting the retailer (to which I am giving my hard earned money) to act in a responsible manner. Believe it or not, it’s actually benefits the retailer to do so. Community image means more than you might think, especially in these environmentally conscious times. That is, unless you’re the type that doesn’t believe in global warming and such.

  • Bob

    Yes, Goodwill is an excellent choice for eWaste disposal. Giving to the Goodwill offers a multi-faceted solution. First, you solve a disposal problem to remove unneeded electronics from you household. Second, you eliminate a problem of toxic waste disposal. Third, you help others and the community because the Goodwill helps get people on their feet by providing employment opportunities. Many Goodwill stores will take donations but some Goodwill locales will pick up as well. Call or check the Internet of your local Goodwill for their eWaste offerings.

  • Shawn

    Goodwill is participating in an electronics recycling program. You can bring you old or non functioning electronics, likes TV’s to a Goodwill store and drop it off, no charge.

  • Herbal.Ed

    While I don’t think it’s the retailers’ responsibility, it’s a very smart business practice. Thus, I will definitely be buying my new plasma from Best Buy.

  • mpj

    The day I bought a new TV, I placed an ad on Freecycle offering to give away the old one. That same night someone came and collected it from my top floor apartment. I got rid of it easily and someone else got a CRT with a few good years of life left in it.

  • Edward

    Its not a question of responsibility. Ultimately if I buy a TV from a retailer that offers proper disposal/recycling service I still have to take advantage of that service.
    This post isn’t placing the ultimate responsibility for recycling at the retailer, its about recognizing responsible retailer behavior in terms of the environment and electronics.
    Have you ever tried to recycle electronics locally? Most people don’t do this frequently and don’t know where to start. Even when people have free local disposal services, they don’t take advantage of them. I have no problem when someone let’s me know which providers offer what services. And if the prices are similar for the TV I’m interested in, but one retailer provides recycling I don’t mind paying a little more for that.

  • Vlad

    I agree with most of the previous commentators, it isn’t retailer’s responsibility to provide me with waste service. It’s like demanding free toilet paper from the supermarket on the basis that they’ve sold you food.

  • Mike

    You’re missing the point. Anybody that shops at the big box stores are completely ignorant about the all the other hidden costs. Not recycling is just another small example of corporate greed – they would rather save a few buck so they can issue out bigger corp bonuses … gotta keep that country club memebership. They export thousands of jobs to China, they spend huge amounts of money to control and lobby our government, they’re employee are treated like pawns and robots. Most importantly they move into towns and suck they life out of the small community business, downtowns turned into ghost towns. WAKE UP America … is it really all about saving a dollar up front? but then sticking our head in the sand about the true reality of corporate greed!

  • Andrew

    Why is it the retailers responsibility to offer recycling of electronics? Why is it the responsibility of car service centers to recycle used batteris? Why is it the responsibility of stores that sell oil to accept used oil for recycling? Why is it the responsibility of stores that sell paint accept paint for recycling?

    It’s because we only have one planet and we need to take care of it.

  • Bill

    >>This irresponsible corporate behavior<<

    Sorry, Guru, but that's ridiculous. As the commenter above notes, it isn't the retailer's responsibility — it's mine, and I can handle it. If a retailer wants to work with a recycling program, great (I'd expect to pay for the service, of course) — but in no way is it irresponsible if they don't.

    Love your blog, but this hit a nerve.

  • Tristan Phillips

    Why is it the responsibility of the retailer to take my old TV? Isn’t it MY responsibility to dispose of it properly, and not the retailer? Talk about an overdeveloped sense of irresponsibility and entitlement.

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