If you’ve purchased a television in the past five years, chances are it is a flat screen with a liquid crystal display (LCD) or plasma. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many consumers/business are now purchasing their second or third flat screen television and facing a decision of what to do with the old sets.
- There are significant differences in the material that makes up LCD and plasma TVs which can make recycling them tricky but also significantly important. The most important difference is the substantially higher amount of glass in plasma TVs while LCD TVs contain more types and higher amounts of plastic.
Toxic Implications of Recycling LCDs and Plasma Televisions
LCD and plasma TV units potentially contain beryllium, cadmium, lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), each of which could pose human safety and health risks. But there are some other materials to be aware of:
Plasma: Most of the plastic contained in a Plasma TVs contain flame retardants, therefore the typical recycling process is manual disassembly.
LCD: LCDs manufactured before 2009 use cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) to backlight the display.
- The CCFL displays contain mercury, making them hazardous to dispose of or incinerate.
- The typical composition of liquid crystal displays in LCD TVs is 87.2% glass, 12.7% plastic, and 0.1% liquid crystals.
- The glass from LCD panels can be reused to fabricate glass ceramics.
- Printed circuit boards found in LCD televisions can be recycled
Recycling Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs
CRTs: Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs and monitors contain four to eight pounds of lead, mostly in the glass of the CRT. This type of glass can only be recycled in two ways: smelting or glass-to-glass recycling (basically using them to make more CRT glass). Recycling CRTs is very labor intensive as they actually must be disassembled. Problems arise in the cost of smelting, the dwindling need for CRT glass, and the difficulty in separating the clean glass from the dirty.
Recycling the Plastic
Plastics: As with most electronics, plastics comprise a large part of a television’s composition. Most plastics have toxic additives, either brominated flame retardants (BFRs) or PVC, which make them too contaminated to recycle into new electronic products. These materials also can leach out of landfills into groundwater and streams or be converted into “super toxicants” including dioxin while being incinerated.
LCD Recycling Breakthroughs
According to Purdue University, the United States generated more than 3 million tons of e-waste in 2007, with 13.6% collected for recycling and 86.4% going to landfills and incinerators. Environmental concerns have led 25 states to pass laws mandating e-waste recycling.
Purdue’s surveys of e-waste collectors and recyclers indicate that LCD monitors and TVs manufactured four to five years ago have begun showing up in waste streams. The high costs of e-waste recycling in the United States once posed challenges to managing these sources of waste but new tools to efficiently disassemble LCD panels are now making recycling these items much easier.
Recyclers must disassemble a portion of them and make decisions on how to recycle or dispose of each piece. New tools have made removing a monitor’s housing and detaching circuit boards and metal frames much easier and e-waste recyclers are finding better ways of safely removing hazardous material and toxic chemicals, (e.g. mercury can be removed and disposed of properly), but it all starts with getting it to the recycler and out of our trash and landfills.
Join the conversation or Recycle your LCD, Plasma or other Television.
Southeastern Data only accepts working LCD, plasma, or flat screen televisions for recycling from businesses. They do not accept residential dropoffs. It is our mission to keep these types of e-waste out of landfills and therefore, keep toxins out of our environment for the health and safety of the community and business we serve. To learn more about the costs or type of material accepted visit Southeastern Data, Acceptable items for E-Recycling or contact 1-800-810-0432
Residential TV Recycling
For Residential television recycling, contact the nearest Municipal or City Recycling Center or you can find a location on the Earth911 - Recycling Center Search Guide.