How ERI Recycles Computer Monitors

Whether it’s the new-age flat-screen or the bulkier traditional monitor, both products yield a lot of valuable, recyclable commodities, including steel, aluminum, power/breakage boards, copper, white and black acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and sometimes even wood.

Older CRT monitors must be carefully broken down piece by piece to reach the CRT tube, which is made of leaded glass that can potentially harm the environment and cause adverse human health effects. CRTs contain various commodities like plastic surrounds, power boards, wiring, a CRT yoke (copper), A-boards, various low-grade metals, glass, speakers, degaussing coils (copper) and the glass CRT tubes.

Flat panels pose less threatening health risks but are still broken down piece by piece to utilize their various components: plastic backing, power supply boards, digital boards, A-boards, aluminum or steel framing, LCD screens, PET plastics and fluorescent tubes.

The tides are changing, as consumers are clearly turning toward flat-screens and leaving CRTs behind. The EPA’s 2010 sales estimates show consumers purchased less than 20,000 CRT monitors, while more than 27 million flat panels shipped that year.



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Traditional and flat-screen monitors made up 30% of the electronics recycling stream in 2009. (source: EPA)

Nearly 12 million monitors — 194,000 tons, or 388 million pounds — were collected for recycling in 2010. (source: EPA)

End-of-life management estimates:

  • CRTs: 25% at five years; 50% at eight years
  • Flat-screens: 100% at nine years (source: EPA)