Can Old Cathode Ray Tube and Liquid Crystal Display Monitors Be Recycled?

Can old CRT and LCD monitors be recycled? This article provides the answer.

Computers proliferate nowadays and almost every home have them as major support systems to facilitate and enhance a family's daily activities. Fathers use them in doing their work in the office, stay-at-home moms find better use of their time by writing and publishing materials in the internet and gain additional income for the family in the process. Children use computers to search answers for their assignments, and of course, the usual gaming activities that bring them to another world -- the world of virtual reality.

Bigger and Better Displays

Higher demands in computer graphics manipulation and gaming require bigger and better display screens. Also, to maximize the usability of new computer application softwares, higher resolution displays such as those provided by LCDs are desirable. Because of this, old, poorly displaying computer monitors are set aside. The bulky and high radiation cathode ray tubes or CRTs are gradually being phased out from the market in favor of the much modern, lighter and better displaying liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. These monitors also consume far lesser amount of electricity that can save a lot of money to the energy-conscious consumer. 

But even these LCD monitors are also gradually being replaced by much advanced light emitting diode (LED) displays, the latter being much more efficient in utilizing electricity. And LCDs are not guaranteed to last a lifetime. They need to be disposed of as the liquid inside it can harden through time. As these electronic gadgets age, there comes a time that they need to be replaced; either they are no longer serving the needs of the user or they are no longer working.

LCD Parts

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Disposal of Old Monitors

Disposal of old cathode ray tube and liquid crystal display monitors, especially the old ones that do not use LED backlighting technology, can be problematic. The cold cathode fluorescent lamps typically used for back-lights in LCD screens contain mercury, a toxic substance. Excessive inhalation or ingestion of mercury through the food chain can cause paralysis. 

Once the old monitors go into the trash, there is no way of knowing if these will be disposed of properly; unless a system exists to take care of these pollutive devices. Well managed sanitary landfills may be the answer, but incinerators could worsen air quality due to the highly volatile mercury. A study in 2009 pointed out that mercury release due to incineration of mercury-added products contribute 200 tons of mercury to the atmosphere annually. 

Disposal of old computer monitors, both CRT and LCD, should therefore be handled with care. Old computers and other electronic products can be donated or recycled. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of donation and recycling programs here.

References

AOC Public Relations Department, 2010. AOC LED Monitors: Leading the way to a greener future. Retrieved on April 1, 2010 at http://www.techie.com.ph/press-releases/aoc-led-monitors-leading-the-way-to-a-greener-future

Environmental Protection Agency, 2010. Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronic Products? Retrieved on April 1, 2010 at http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm.

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, 2009. New study raises concern over mercury pollution from burning products. Retrieved on April 1, 2010 at http://www.no-burn.org/article.php?id=633.

Kawamoto, H., 2002. The history of liquid crystal displays. Retrieved on April 1, 2010 at http://ieee.org/portal/cms_docs_iportals/iportals/aboutus/history_center/LCD-History.pdf.

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