If you’re looking to recycle a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, which have been mostly phased out of the sales market at this point, it contains four to eight pounds of lead. If you have a liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen, it’s likely being backlit by small fluorescent bulbs containing mercury. Both are toxic metals that you want to keep inside the monitor.
This means it’s extra important to keep these monitors out of landfills but also treat them with care when recycling. Here are a few steps to take when preparing your monitor for recycling:
- Unplug the DVI, HDMI or VGA cable from your monitor (as well as the CPU) to lighten the load and prevent tripping (for VGA, you’ll need to unscrew the ends). If the power cord can be removed, unplug that as well.
- Use a dolly or a rolling chair to transport the monitor to your car. CRT monitors can be quite heavy and you don’t want to risk dropping them.
- Place a towel or blanket down in the car and put the monitor face down on top. This will ensure that nothing breaks if you hit any potholes on the drive.
Find a drop-off location for computer monitors near you using the Recycling Locator.
Frequent Computer Monitor Recycling Questions
Can I recycle computer monitors in my curbside recycling program?
It’s highly unlikely that your curbside recycling program accepts computer monitors, even if it collects “scrap metal.” These screens are bulky and made up of multiple materials, so you’ll definitely want to check before putting them in the recycling bin. If your area offers bulky waste recycling, computer monitors may be accepted, but it’s a good idea to verify that they’ll be responsibly recycled.
What are the computer monitor recycling certifications I should be asking about?
The two most common electronics recycling certifications for North American recyclers are the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) e-Stewards and Sustainable Electronics Recycling International’s (SERI) R2 Standard.
BAN has been certifying recyclers since 2006 to ensure that no electronics are exported overseas. R2 (originally R2 Solutions) has been around since 2008, and focuses more on certifying the recycling process and data destruction.
There are computer monitor recyclers that aren’t e-Stewards or R2 certified, but if you’re wanting to recycle with one of these certified companies, find a directory of them at e-stewards.org and sustainableelectronics.org.
Do any retailers offer computer monitor recycling?
Yes. Staples has been recycling computer monitors since 2007, and Best Buy followed suit in 2008. Both stores accept both CRT and LCD screens, as well as other computer parts. Best Buy charges a fee to recycle monitors unless you happen to live in California.
Is throwing away my computer monitor against the law?
As of 2017, 25 (or half) of U.S. states require you to recycle some forms of electronics. Of those, 17 have banned them from landfills. The good news is that every time a new law is passed, recycling becomes that much easier for residents in that state. You’ll likely find your city or county offers computer recycling events at least once a year (usually around Earth Day on April 22).
Will all recyclers that accept computers also take monitors?
No, especially if you are trying to recycle a CRT monitor. The costs of breaking down these screens while responsibly removing the lead and/or mercury limits their acceptance by electronics recyclers, and many will specifically exclude monitors from their materials list.
What if my monitor and CPU are all one unit (e.g., an iMac)?
If you can’t separate your screen from the computer processor, you should treat the entire system as a monitor for recycling. You’ll want to unplug all the components (keyboard, mouse, etc.) and find a recycler that accepts CRT monitors. This company would also accept the attached CPU.
What should I do if I have a large number of computer monitors to recycle?
When you have one monitor to recycle, a retailer may be most ideal. But if you have numerous screens, you should ask your office if it can plan a recycling drive. You can call an e-waste recycler to send a truck, promote the event to your neighboring businesses, and recycle all sorts of electronics at once. In many cases, the recycler will pick up your electronics at no charge if enough people participate.
Will the monitor manufacturer offer a take-back recycling program?
Most computer monitor manufacturers are now offering take-back recycling, either by partnering with retailers like Best Buy, Goodwill or Staples, or through a mail-in program (usually only for LCD screens). You’ll want to search your manufacturer’s website for details on its specific program. None of the retailers mentioned above exclude certain brands of monitors, though.
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- What’s Blocking CRT Recycling?: An overview of the recycling market for CRT screens