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Monitor Recycling Guide: How to Recycle Computer Monitors?

Monitor Recycling

One of the largest recycling problems faced by most countries comes down to the sheer volume of computer electronics that are obsolete and outdated. With technology advances showing no signs of slowing down, it's no wonder that businesses and home users are constantly upgrading computer monitors. 

In many cases, people tend to store old monitors for a while as a backup.

But eventually, you'll need to find a permanent solution. 

And whether that's a modern faulty LCD monitor or an ancient CRT, computer monitor recycling is one of the most important services to choose right. 

There is tons of hazardous waste tied up in these electronics, and I'll show you why it's important to recycle them and what your best options are. 

Why Should You Recycle Your Old/Broken Monitors Responsibly? 

It's easy to say that you should be recycling old electronics because it's the right thing to do. But it's far more important to understand the fundamental impacts that electronics have on our world when they end up in the trash. 

A Mountain Of A Problem

The first thing that's important to understand is how big of a problem electronics are. With people replacing phones every year and computers every few years, it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are mountains of discarded electronics every year

But, if I told you this mountain has a size of almost 7 million tons per year in America, that would probably surprise you. 

That's 46 pounds per American!

The bigger problem is that only about 15% of that electronics waste is recycled, with lots of it breaking down in basements or at landfills. 

Impact On The Air

When e-waste like monitors isn't properly handled at the end of its life, then exposure to the natural elements alone can cause many of the toxic materials to break down and evaporate into the air

Most people simply think of hazardous waste in a cathode ray tube (CRT), those huge old monitors that took up most of your desk. 

But even modern LCD monitors contain many different metals and chemicals that are perfectly safe when they are contained. But even small amounts of them in the open air can seriously damage animals, plants, and humans

The Importance of Responsible Monitor Recycling

Impact On Soil

When monitors and other computer electronics are illegally dumped, or they end up at a landfill, then all those metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium can ultimately release due to heat, cold, and moisture exposure.

This might be a slow process, but once those metals release, they have only one place to go. 

And once they seep into the soil, it's practically impossible to easily remove them without stripping away layers of the soil. 

Impact On Water

But heavy metals like mercury, lithium, and lead don't just seep into the soil and stop there. Over time, gravity and water wash these metals further and further down until they hit the water table

And that's when things become irreversibly serious and where contamination can result in even more serious damage to plant, animal, and human life. 

Impact On Humans

Consistent exposure to the metals in electronics waste can lead to huge health problems affecting the lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, and even the bone structure

These are not problems that arise suddenly, and contamination often happens over many years with a gradual accumulation of the toxins. Once there are symptoms, a lot of the damage has often been done, and people can be left with permanent health problems. 

So, we've established that there is a huge risk to the environment and humans.

But before you think about finding the next best curbside recycling program, let me tell you about the best options for your computers and monitors. 

How To Prepare Your Monitor For Recycling? 

OK, now that you know that those old monitors in the garage or basement could be a health hazard and that the right thing to do is to recycle computer monitors, it's time to go through this simple process. 

Unplug All Cables

If there are loose cables still attached, or the monitor is still attached to a computer, then make sure you remove all the cables first. You can recycle these as well, but it's best to keep them separate. 

Also, keeping one of those large cathode ray tube monitors free from tripping hazards will make it easier to carry and transport safely. 

Monitor recycling preparation

Wrap Up The Monitor In A Towel

You need to make sure that you'll safely carry and transport the monitor. E-waste can easily break, and it might have already deteriorated a bit if it's been in storage for a long time. 

So, grab an old towel and carefully wrap up the monitor so that it avoids damage while in transport. 

Now is also a good time to check for any other electronic devices like printers, scanners, and DVD players that are just taking up space and never used. 

Carefully Place The Monitor In Your Trunk

Make sure that your old computer monitors are safely placed in your trunk so that they avoid falling or rolling around. Those external plastics won't stand up to much force, and you can quickly damage internal components that contain the heavy metals. 

Bring To A Recycling Center

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, then you can bring your old e-waste to the GreenCitizen recycling facility. The company has years of experience in recycling electronic devices and offers competitive rates. 

Alternatively, you can use the Green Directory to find an e-waste recycling center near you. 

How to Recycle Computer Monitors? 5 Simple Monitor Recycling Options

There are five easy options that you should consider for an old monitor, computer, and even hard drives and printers. 

1. E-Waste Recycling Centers

Dealing with an e-waste recycling center is the best way to make sure that your computer monitors are safely recycled.

The reason is that these companies have the industrial machinery needed to take care of the entire process. 

Let me explain. 

Professional Dismantling

The recycling process for computers and monitors starts with carefully taking apart the electronics into their individual components. There are plenty of plastics, and then there's the glass and multiple circuit boards. 

These all have to enter a separate process to then further break them down with industrial machinery. 

Separation Of Materials

If you look at a typical electronics circuit board, there will be a combination of plastics, copper, lead, aluminum, and even precious metals like gold

Separating these materials requires specialized equipment that breaks them down into a pile of metals and plastic. The metals can then be further separated and recycled as raw materials for the electronics industry. 

Reuse Of Metals

This is becoming an increasingly important part of protecting the environment. Unfortunately, all electronics from your phone to your computer monitor contain many types of metals that often come from mines in third-world countries. 

These mines often operate under devastating conditions for both the environment and the people that work in them. Making sure that the majority of those metals can be recycled from devices reduces the demand for such mining operations. 

Safe Disposal

While some materials in these devices can enter the cycle economy, there are others like lead glass that can't be reused. These need to be separated and then disposed of at specialist sites using containers that make sure they are sealed indefinitely or until there's a solution for dealing with it better. 

It's these materials that are most important to properly separate, and an e-waste recycling center like GreenCitizen offers those services. 

2. Manufacturers' Recycling Programs

Public opinion and media attention, and through countries and states introducing legislation, have forced many manufacturers to create their own recycling program for electronic items. 

While they might not take care of the overall breakdown of the materials, many of them do offer to take back old computer monitors, printers, hard drives, phones, and laptops for free or a nominal fee. 

They collect those electronic devices and then partner with e-waste centers to handle the safe recycling process. 

Here are some examples. 

  • LG offers a simple process where you can find a drop-off site near you or mail your monitor in at your own expense. The company accepts all electronics that they manufacture, and they partner with some of the largest recycling companies. 
  • Dell has created a unique approach in that they offer a drop-off and mail-in service where they accept any brand of products. Whether it's a Dell computer or old Canon printers, if you can attach it to a computer, they will accept it. 
  • HP also offers a free recycling service where they accept all HP and Compaq devices. 
  • Apple has a trade-in program where you can return old devices and even receive money off a new purchase. 

At this stage, pretty much all manufacturers have some service available, but if you can't find details, then you could also try electronics stores.

Here's what's available. 

3. Retail Store Recycling Programs

Many major electronics stores now offer a recycling program where you can drop off computers, laptops, TVs, monitors, and anything electrical that you bought there. 

Now, it used to be the case that you could recycle a monitor if you bought it at the store and had the receipt or if you were buying a new monitor. But it seems like that wasn't enough of an incentive, and many stores now allow you to drop off several devices per day even if you didn't buy them there. 

For example,

  • Staples have a drop-off point in their stores where you can bring pretty much any old computer equipment for free. This is mainly for consumer products and other electronic devices, but it does exclude large kitchen and household appliances. 
  • Best Buy also has a drop-off program, and this is an ideal option if you have a broken monitor and need to head to Best Buy for a new one. Simply hand over the old one as you head into the store, and you've saved yourself a trip. 
  • Walmart is rolling out a new concept called the ecoATM. This will allow you to bring old electronics to a designated ATM and then turn it into cash, depending on the age and state. It's a great way to see if you have some hidden cash sitting in your basement or garage. 

4. Municipal Waste Center 

While most municipalities no longer run a curbside recycling program, a lot of them will have a drop-off center with an electronics recycling program. 

In line with a long-standing Electronic Waste Recycling Act, municipalities in California have been leading the way through a program called CalRecycle

You can use that site to choose a municipal e-waste center near you and make arrangements to drop off your old computer monitor.

5. Donate To Charity

This should be your first option if you have computer monitors that are relatively modern and still in working order. Many charities and Goodwill stores will happily accept electronics that could help out people with little financial means. 

And the one thing that beats dropping off a computer monitor at a recycling program is to make sure that someone gets as much use out of it as possible. 

Reusing electronics as is without refurbishing or recycling is an ideal choice, especially since there are so many people that can't afford the latest and greatest in modern technology. 

Simply contact a local charity store or Goodwill and provide them with details about your device's age and specifications, and they'll quickly let you know whether they'll accept it. 

Not only will you do the right thing for the environment, but you'll also help someone out to enjoy technology they otherwise might not be able to afford. 

Monitor Recycling With GreenCitizen

I already mentioned the services that GreenCitizen offers for a wide range of electronics. So, let's take a closer look at the recycling program available. 

Electronics Recycling with GreenCitizen

For Individuals: Electronics Drop-off Service

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area and have some old monitors from personal home use, then GreenCitizen offers a free drop-off service . And the process couldn't be any easier. 

You just need to fill out a form with the details of the monitor and computers before you pack them up. Then call to the drop-off point at the GreenCitizen Burlingame EcoCenter and wait for a member of the team to meet you. 

Our address is — 1831 Bayshore HWY, Suite 2, Burlingame, CA 94010 USA.

They will then check your free recycling items, and they'll weigh the fee items. All this only takes a few minutes, and you can pay straight away with the reassurance that the company will properly handle all the electronics. 

For Businesses: Business Pickup Service

GreenCitizen also offers a program specifically designed for businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It's a collection service where our team come to your office and collect your old electronic devices. 

You simply collect them all in one storage room or loading bay, and someone from the collection team will pick them up at a pre-arranged time. 

Once they arrive at the recycling facility, they are separated and weighed, and you receive an invoice a few days later. 

Not only will GreenCitizen ensure that everything is safely recycled, but they can also provide certification of safe data destruction for any storage devices. 

From Around The Country: Mail-In Recycling Service

If you're not within driving distance of GreenCitizen, you can still opt for our free and fee recycling program. What you need to do is separate the free to recycle items and place those electronic devices in a separate box. 

Then weigh the fee items and fill out the mail-in recycling form. All that's left is to pay the fee online and receive the shipping instructions. You can then use your preferred shipping company to have your old computer monitors and other equipment sent to the recycling center. 

Once it arrives, any data destruction will be taken care of, and you'll receive a certificate that the data has been completely destroyed. 

Other Providers

Another possibly more cost-effective way to ensure that you properly recycle your monitor without having to pay for shipping. 

This could become expensive considering the weight of an old CRT monitor. 

GreenCitizen has created a Green Directory of recycling service providers around the country with an easy-to-use search function. You simply enter what you need to recycle and what your zip code is, and you'll receive the nearest company that offers a business collection or drop-off program. 

FAQ

Can old CRT monitors be recycled?

Yes, old CRT monitors can be recycled. In most cases, it's not possible to reuse them with modern computers, but they contain toxic metals that should end up in the trash or landfill. 

Can you throw your old monitor on the curbside?

No, most municipalities don't operate a curbside recycling program for your old monitor. Leaving a monitor out in the open can also further damage it, making recycling more difficult.

What is the penalty for not recycling a monitor?

The penalty for not recycling old computer monitors is different from state to state and county to county. In many cases, it ranges from $50 to several hundred dollars, which should be enough incentive not to throw it in the trash.

Can a monitor store data?

Yes, a monitor can store data. This is typically more common with smart TVs, but some monitors also have similar functions that could store login details for streaming services. It's important that you use a data destruction service for such devices.

How can you get rid of electronics for free?

The easiest way to get rid of working electronics for free is to drop them off at Goodwill or a charity store. If they are relatively new, then you may also be able to recycle them for free at a local recycling center.

Have You Found Some Old Monitors That Need Recycling?

You'd be surprised how many homes still have an ancient CRT monitor somewhere in the basement, and getting rid of such equipment is important to avoid any of the harmful chemicals being released. 

But even a modern LCD screen has to be responsibly recycled in order to make sure that the reusable metals enter the cycle economy. 

I strongly suggest starting your recycling effort with GreenCitizen, and even if they aren't close enough to deal with your old computer screen, laptop, or other devices, our Green Directory will be able to point you to your closest service. 

Chris is one of GreenCitizen’s writers who has been a long-time advocate of individual responsibility when it comes to the environment. He shares GreenCitizen's passion for making the world a better place every day of the year.


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