On January 24th 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made it illegal to dispose of televisions via municipal waste disposal sites (in other words they cannot wind up in landfills because they are bad for the environment). What this meant is that most trash pickup companies stopped taking them from customers, even for an additional fee.
This small historical detail is going to become more significant as this story goes on...
Recently Ted and I acquired a shiny newfangled flat screen HD television. We got it as an unexpected blessing, secondhand and for free. After hooking it up, we were duly impressed by the difference that HD really does make in picture quality.
The downside was, we now had to find a new home for a 36” old fashioned CRT television which works just fine, but weighs roughly the same amount as an NFL Linebacker in box form.
Not wanting to throw away an item that works (and not yet knowing that throwing these things away has recently become impossible in my state) I posted the Albatross on Facebook a week ago with the attached picture, offering it free to a good home.
A friend of mine suggested I try Freecycle, so I quickly investigated and just as quickly signed up. I had no idea this awesome service existed with the sole purpose of getting rid of items for people who no longer want or need them and getting them to people who do. No money, no strings attached, just people getting rid of stuff and people getting what they need. Within an hour I had an ad posted and was ready to find a new home for Albatross.
Before any of the Freecyclers had a chance to react, however, an old acquaintance popped up on Facebook offering to take the set off my hands. Delighted by how easy that turned out to be, I took the Freecycle ad back down immediately.
I then spent last weekend trying unsuccessfully to arrange a pickup time with my acquaintance, who I finally found out on Sunday evening was too busy to come get it. I figured that was okay though since I didn’t really need Albatross out of my house until the following Saturday the 26th, also known as Tedmas: the annual observance of the celebration of Ted’s day of birth.
After pestering and pestering and… pestering this entire past week I found out at 4PM on Tedmas Eve that my acquaintance was not, in fact, going to come get Albatross from us. After having not run the Freecycle ad for it all week, I now had about twelve hours to somehow dispose of a CRT television so heavy that it generally takes three adults of Herculean strength to move it around.
Panic mode – ENGAGED.
I spent the next solid hour calling everybody: my trash company, other people’s trash companies, thrift stores, and every recycling center listed in the yellow pages for my town and the three towns around me. The only people remotely willing to entertain so much as the possibility of taking this thing was Best Buy, who would even come get it from me… for a hundred bucks, but only if it was a few inches smaller than 36”.
Near tears, I inquired of the sympathetic lady at Waste Management just what exactly a responsible citizen was supposed to do to get rid of one of these things legally and within the boundaries of the new Pennsylvania laws? Dismantling it myself and hiding it piecemeal in the trash was starting to seem like the only way out.
Finally, she directed me toward the Environmental Protection Agency. Call me a paranoid Libertarian if you want, but going for help to the United States Government who had enacted the law that was busting my butt in the first place just hadn’t really occurred to me.
Turns out, that’s exactly the right place to go. Since they’ve made it completely impossible to legally dispose of these things in the trash, they now have arranged community pickup days where you can take them and drop them off, free of charge. Had I only called the County in the first place I’d have saved myself quite a bit of trouble.
The thing is, why did I have to make forty phone calls to find that out? Shouldn’t the very first recycling center who refused me have known about it? Each and every time I was refused, I immediately asked the Customer Service Rep if they knew who I should call instead to solve my problem. Usually they said they had no idea, but occasionally they’d suggest a different recycling center.
One suggested I call the TV manufacturer and ask them, so I called Zenith and did just that. They directed me toward three different repair centers in my area who, “should be able to help.” Could they dispose of a CRT TV? Nope, nope and nope. Did they know of someone who could? Nope again.
Why don’t people in this industry, who know immediately and with harsh finality that they absolutely cannot help, know who people should go to instead? The collection events are fantastic but if people are clueless to their existence it’s not going to do anybody very much good.
It also turns out that there was one of these collection events at the library at the end of my street just last weekend, but we missed the boat on that one and will now have to take the Albatross for one final car ride (not to mention figuring out how to lift it into the car) on Tedmas morning. Definitely not the way we were expecting to start the celebration, but hey – at least it won’t be in residence in my dining room any longer.
So the takeaways here are this:
1) Freecycle is very cool and you should use and support it.
2) Unless you are aware of the one approved method for doing so, the government has made it a colossal pain the butt to get rid of electronic items. Which makes me wonder if a lot of people, after trying and trying and TRYING to dispose of them legally aren’t maybe giving up, dismantling them, and hiding them piecemeal in their trash or dropping them off high cliffs somewhere. The blinding efficiency of the United States Government at work, as usual.
3) If you have a CRT television and you need to get rid of it – call the Environmental Protection Agency. Nobody else will help you. Seriously. Nobody. I’ve done the legwork.