How Are CRT Monitors Recycled?
Updated January 2019
Got any old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors you want to get rid of? In recent years, we’ve started to replace cathode ray tubes with LCD displays, leaving consumers with unwanted monitors taking up space. Luckily, recycling is a safe and responsible option for those old monitors. Yes, it can be done!
How CRT Recycling Works
The recycling process begins with consumers or companies bringing their CRT monitors to an electronic recycling drop off center, like GreenCitizen. Next, the CRTs are shipped out of the collection center to the recycling plant for further processing. Unfortunately, many electronic collectors ship CRTs overseas where they are often dumped. If you choose an electronic recycler with the e-Steward certification you can be confident that it will be properly recycled in the United States.
When the dismantling process of the CRT monitor begins, the plastic casing of the monitor is removed. This is done manually, exposing the panel glass, glass tube, electronic chip boards, wiring and electron gun. The electron gun contains the cathode and anode units. The cathodes are heated filaments which produce a stream of electrons. The positive charge of the anode draws the electrons from the cathode’s copper components and directs the electrons to create the image. All of these parts contain different materials that are removed and sorted into separate bins to undergo their own recycling process.
Within the glass tube is a vacuum seal. To prevent the unit from imploding, specialized equipment needs to dismantle it. Inside the glass is a phosphorus coating which glows when it is hit by light. This phosphorous is removed so the glass can be recycled. The glass used in the tube generally contains 20% lead by weight. Adding lead to glass is a common practice to improve optical quality and creates a shield against the radiation produced by the electrons. The lead glass needs to undergo a lead smelting process and can be used to make new CRT monitors.
Once the plastics, electronic gun, glass tube, motherboards, wires and other miscellaneous parts have been separated they all undergo the separation process. They are crushed, vibrated, shredded or sprayed by a strong current of water to separate the different materials. Once they have been separated, strong magnets with specific electronic charges for each different metal are used to divide the different metals, such as copper, gold, iron, and steel.
After these parts are separated, they are often sold to different processors where they will be further refined, then sold production of new materials. This process will reduce the impact of mining and keep toxins out of the environment.
If you want to watch how CRT monitor recycling is done, check out this great video. See step by step how the process works.
For more information about what to do with your old monitors, give us a call at (650) 493-8700. Or if you have a CRT monitor you’re eager to get rid of and you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, stop by our EcoCenter today and we’ll take it off your hands for free.
If you’re outside the San Francisco Bay Area, use our mail-in recycling service. You can search for a CRT monitor recycler near you with our Green Directory. Just go to “Green Directory” at the top of this page then enter “CRT monitor” and your zip code.
James Kao is the founder/CEO of GreenCitizen, which provides products and services that help make every day Earth Day. He’s passionate about data and sustainability, with a deep background in launching, funding, and managing successful tech companies. James enjoys spending quality time with his family, hiking, traveling, watching well-made documentaries, and eating good healthy food. read more »