How to Recycle Television Antennas
By Ken Burnside
With the change from analog to digital broadcasting, many homeowners have old rooftop television antennas that they no longer need. Once they're taken down, rooftop antennas are still large, awkward structures of made of metal that can be both profitable and tricky to recycle.
Dismounting the Antenna
Getting your antenna off the roof is the first tricky part of the recycling process. If you still have the manual for your antenna, study its assembly instructions. Otherwise, head up onto your roof with a full tool belt and include a tape measure. Carefully disassemble the antenna from the top down – so that it doesn't present a tipping hazard to someone on the ground, and send it down on the ground in pieces. Like any roof-based activity, take your time, use safety precautions and try to do it on a clear day without any wind. When you're disassembling the antenna, be sure to separate out the pre-amp, if there is one, and any motors used to aim the antenna.
Once the antenna is down, consider contacting your local ham radio club, or putting an ad on Craigslist or a similar service. The elements that make a good TV antenna are eminently re-usable for making a Yagi-style antenna for ham radio, and they'll probably take the mast too. You should also investigate Freecycle. Freecycle is an online community dedicated to re-using things; many people go to Freecycle to dispose of items they no longer need.
Contact Local Metal Buyers
Most of what makes a TV antenna useful is that it's a metal structure, usually aluminium, with some high end copper wire. Recycling centers will pay you for scrap aluminium and copper. As of December 2013, aluminium fetches between 30 and 50 cents a pound, and copper can be as much as 20 dollars a pound -- but metal prices can fluctuate dramatically. The drawback to this is that you'll need to find a way to get it there – at pennies per pound, any pick-up fees will eat into your profit margin. This is a good time to call in a favor from a friend with a truck, if you don't have one of your own.
Waste Stream Disposal
If you do take your antenna down and just want to get rid of it, contact your local sanitation department for their specific requirements. They may want all of the components separated by material (cable in one pile, aluminium in one pile, electronic components like a pre-amp or motor separated out. They may also send a truck out to pick up the components for a small fee.
Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.