Things Not To Do: Television Recycling Edition

Old televisions and old computer monitors are things we’ve all had to deal with recently, as we Earthlings make the transition from cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays to high-tech flat screens.  By local standards, my family was very late to replace our television, but I bet that some parts of the world still have a lot of CRTs in use and so this transition will take another decade or more to complete.  I’m writing my warning for any Earthling anywhere who may still need to handle a CRT–and also to explain why I haven’t done much writing lately!

This is a story in which the Thing Not To Do cropped up in the process of our doing some Things To Do–both disposing of our CRT responsibly and handling the accident responsibly–so I’m going to list all the Things To Do and put the Thing Not To Do in red.

  • If you have a CRT television or monitor that you don’t want anymore, see if you can give it to someone who does want it.
  • If your CRT doesn’t work anymore or nobody wants it, turn it in for recyclingThis is required by law in many places.  Here’s a database for finding local recycling locations.
    • Some businesses collect CRTs for recycling.  They may charge a fee per item or per pound.
    • Goodwill in some cities will accept any electrical appliance and use the task of dismantling it as vocational training, as well as recycling the components–or they might refurbish it for resale.  Other Goodwill locations do not accept CRTs, so be sure to check before donating!
    • Many local governments, large employers, or school districts organize days to collect “hard to recycle” items.  Daniel took our old TV to a recycling event here in the Pittsburgh area, where there was a $40 fee.
    • Some junk-removal companies will collect CRTs. Others won’t–if they say “old TVs” are okay, make sure they are willing to deal with CRTs as well as broken flat-screens.  This probably will cost more than any other disposal option, but it means you don’t have to move the CRT yourself–which is what all the rest of this article is about!
  • Remember that the CRT is very heavy and may have right-angled edges that dig into your flesh.  Make a plan for how you’re going to move it.  You may need two or more people.
    • Consider using a dolly, so that you only have to lift the CRT onto and off of the dolly, instead of carrying it the whole distance.
    • If you are moving it indoors, for example from your office to the elevator and across the lobby, try placing it in a wheeled desk chair–if the CRT fits into the chair and weighs less than a person, it won’t damage the chair.)
    • Once you have it in your car, delivering it for recycling should be the next thing you do with the car.  Driving with extra weight in the car decreases fuel economy and can affect how the car handles, especially on hills.  In an accident, the CRT might act like Tom Mix’s Suitcase of Death.
  • Don’t move the CRT toward a stationary object without checking to see if someone’s hand is in between!  This was Daniel’s mistake, and it was my hand that was smashed between the thin, rigid top corner of the TV and the side of the car trunk.
  • Consider it an accident.  It doesn’t matter if you should’ve known not to put your hand there or he should’ve looked.  MOVE ON.
  • If you are hurt, put ice on it right away!!!  This helps to control swelling and bruising and pain.
  • If there is any chance a bone might be broken, get an X-ray as soon as possible.  Then, either you’ll get a cast on it so you don’t dislocate the fracture, or you’ll know it isn’t broken and have peace of mind as well as advice on treating the injury you do have.
  • Have someone else drive you to the hospital.  Your injury might be worsened by driving, pain might impair your driving, and there’s a heavy object in the car that might make driving more difficult!
  • If you get hurt while you’re unemployed but have medical insurance, give thanks: However much you are suffering, at least you aren’t struggling with the question of how much time to take off work and how to get your work done when you’re still hurting!
  • Get the stupid TV to the recycling place in the end, so that your suffering will not be in vain.

We actually replaced our television and set up an efficient TV-and-computer corner (see space-saving tip #13!) in November 2014.  At the time, a friend was planning to move to a new place locally and wanted a TV, so we put our CRT on the front porch for him to take when he was ready.  But then he decided to move to Hawaii, instead, so he obviously wasn’t taking anything heavy.

Let me emphasize how heavy this particular television was.  It was pretty big in screen size, bigger than our previous TV, but when we tried to pick it up for the first time we were surprised at how much heavier it was than the previous TV–which had been no picnic for two adults to carry.  We bought this one used, and the lady selling it had to help us carry it to the car because the two of us couldn’t manage it.  I estimate it weighed between 70 and 90 pounds, which feels like a lot more when it’s in the form of a box too big to fit your arms around, covered with ridges and flanges made of hard plastic!

I won’t bore you with our various short-circuited attempts to get rid of the old TV.  The final result was that, after three and a half years, Daniel decided he would take it to this recycling event.  Our son is now 13, big enough to help us lift the TV off the porch, carry it down 3 steps and along a few feet of sidewalk, and put it in the hatchback of our car.  (We decided not to use our dolly because, once we’d lifted the TV off the porch, we’d have it at the right height to set it into the car–rather than bumping the dolly down the steps and then having to lift the TV outside our parallel-parked car.)

Our teamwork went so well!  We did not drop the TV on anyone’s foot.  Nobody stumbled on the steps or tripped over the power cord.  We put it into the car without anyone’s finger underneath.

But then my side of the TV was fully into the car, and my right hand was resting on the top edge as I assessed how much space was between the TV and the side of the car, while Daniel was looking at how to get the other side of the TV far enough into the car that the hatchback could close–and he decided to shift it a couple inches to the right, and one of those inches had my hand in it.

The edge of the TV shoved in between my middle and ring fingers, pinning me against the side of the car.  I yelped, and Daniel immediately pulled it away, but I must have flinched reflexively and pulled on my arm a bit, judging by the amount of wrist and elbow pain I’ve had.

I’m so, so glad that when I said, “I think it’s okay…” Daniel said very firmly, “Go put ice on it right now.”  I’ve recently struggled with feeling like I might not deserve things I fear I might need, so it’s helpful to be reminded not to make things worse by neglecting emergency care.  I ran into the house and put ice packs on both sides of my hand for 20 minutes.  Bruising and swelling were minimal; I think they would have been much worse without the ice.

But it wasn’t okay.  My first response was based on seeing that my hand had not been crushed out of normal shape and was not bleeding.  The impact hurt so much that the moments just afterward seemed painless by comparison, but as the shock wore off, I began to realize that my hand actually hurt a lot–throbbing in the middle of my palm, tingles and shooting pains from fingertips to elbow, and spiky twinges in my wrist.

When I was 23, I broke my foot on a Saturday night and didn’t get it X-rayed until Monday morning when I finally admitted it was getting worse instead of better.  When I was 32, I stepped on a sewing needle that broke off in my foot, but I put on my shoes and ran because I was late for the dentist, and that turned the next two days into an ordeal of two surgeries in two hospitals and hobbling half a mile on crutches in freezing rain.  I’m 45 now and like to think I have become wiser with age.

At any rate, as I sat there sandwiched in ice praying–Okay this is an unexpected turn help me see what comes next help me get this right help–suddenly I realized it was June 29.  The fiscal year for my health insurance policy (which is very expensive now that I’m unemployed) ends June 30.  I had already reached my deductible for the year, so I could go to the emergency room and have full coverage instead of paying 80% of the bill, but only if I went within the next 28 hours! I decided to take that as a sign from God.  (But I can’t help noticing that it’s also a really American moment.)

So, I held still while Daniel put our 4-year-old to bed, and then we put our 13-year-old in charge and set off for the emergency room.  (We would have gone to Urgent Care, to avoid cluttering up a department dealing with more serious injuries, but it was already after 8pm when we were moving the TV, and Urgent Care closes at 9pm.)  We had to wait several hours, but ultimately they took good care of me.

My hand was not broken.  I had a contusion, basically an internal bruise (only faintly visible, only for the first day) in the middle of my hand.  At first, I couldn’t touch any fingertip to my thumb, make a fist, spread my fingers, or grasp anything with either my palm or my fingers.  But it’s gotten better day by day, and I’m almost back to normal now.  Even on the first day, I was doing well enough to be the Parent On Duty while Daniel drove out to the recycling event.

Daniel did apologize, over and over, for hurting me.  Even though it was an accident, I appreciate that.  Even more, I appreciate that he never once told me how illogical it was for me to have my hand there.  Too often, things like this turn into bickering about whose fault it was–and sometimes, that bickering has even derailed our response to an emergency.  It was nice to have this one go smoothly.

I thought this would be my new winner for “worst thing I’ve done to myself for the sake of the environment” but then I remembered that contest was “grossest thing,” so the mold-infected recycling cut still wins.  Yay.

Visit the big summer edition of Hearth & Soul for useful tips from other writers!

6 thoughts on “Things Not To Do: Television Recycling Edition

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