Goodwill no longer accepting old TVs

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa City residents who possess old TVs may have to find a new place to donate their outdated sets as of Sunday.

Select Goodwill stores no longer accept televisions because the low demand for older sets, which are not high-definition. Goodwill officials said the store spendss more money recycling the televisions than it makes selling them.

Brent Watkins, creative services manager for Goodwill, said it spent $150,000 this past year on recycling donated televisions that were not being sold in stores.

"There was just absolutely no demand for the pre-HD sets," he said, and customers are much more interested in the newer TVs.

Watkins said there has been a huge upswing in donated television sets since people learned of the Sunday cutoff date.

Liz Christansen, the director of sustainability at the University of Iowa, said Goodwill is not the only nonprofit organization turning away televisions.

"It is costing them a lot of money to accept them and recycle them," she said. "It's unfortunate, but that is the situation right now."

Willie Johnson, a recycling employee at the Iowa City Goodwill, said having televisions available in stores no longer meets the mission statement.

"Taking the TVs was actually part of the mission to help clients," he said. "The turnover was too great for us, and we were spending more money to recycle them as opposed to selling them."

The reason the Goodwill spends so much money on recycling the televisions is because the sets are considered electronic waste, which has a much more complicated recycling process than the conventional process.

Jennifer Jordan, recycling coordinator at the Iowa City Landfill, said there are a lot of materials in electronics that officials do not want to go to waste.

She said the Landfill works with a company called Midwest Electronics Recovery, a certified electronic-waste company. It takes all of the electronic waste from the landfill.

"They erase hard drives for security issues and take [the televisions] apart piece by piece," she said. "[Because materials such as] lead and mercury are hazardous."

Jordan said the process of recycling is expensive, but so is throwing electronics into a landfill.

Officials would then need to take precautions to ensure no electronic waste contaminated the groundwater or polluted the air.

Christansen said recycling such waste is part of being environmentally responsible.

"I look at it in terms of material resources," she said. "If someone can find a use for it, I think that's a better alternative [than throwing it away."

Other consignment stores, such as Stuff Etc., 1027 Highway 6 E., do not have a problem with paying for recycling of electronic waste because it generally does not receive many electronics.

Anna Conaway, an assistant manager of Stuff Etc., said it has a policy of not accepting any televisions more than 5 years old.

"We don't take as many because of our standards," she said. "When we do get them, [we do not need to worry about recycling because] they sell pretty fast."

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