The importance of monitor recycling has become readily apparent, as more and more aging electronics are thrown away and replaced each year. The advent of flat screen televisions and computer monitors may eventually lessen the need for monitor recycling. Older monitors usually consist of a thick glass screen in front of a cathode ray tube (CRT). The glass and the CRT put together can contain up to eight pounds of lead, depending on the size of the monitor. When materials containing lead are disposed of in landfills, the lead can leach out into the soil and groundwater, potentially posing health risks to humans.
Lead is not the only hazardous material present in electronic equipment. Mercury, cadmium, and flame-retardant chemicals are all present. These chemicals pose a particular health hazard to humans, because they are bioaccumulative. This means that they build up in our bodies as opposed to being filtered out. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury are known to be linked to birth defects and nervous system damage when unhealthy levels of exposure take place.
Responsible monitor recycling is of great importance, because of the hazardous materials that are thereby prevented from negatively affecting the environment we depend on. While electronic equipment such as a CRT monitor poses no health hazard when used by a consumer, it should not be dumped or incinerated in the same way as organic trash, because of the potentially harmful materials in it. There are many companies which conduct monitor recycling in a responsible way by separating out hazardous materials for reuse or safe disposal.
When a monitor is brought to a recycling facility, it may be reconditioned and sold, if it is determined to still be usable. If not, it is put through a process called de-manufacturing, where it is reduced to its original raw materials. Some useful electrical components may be harvested as a part of monitor recycling, while materials such as plastic, glass, and precious metals are put through further processing. This involves shredding these materials into small pieces and melting them down. Advanced air filtering systems at many facilities can accomplish this step without any toxic emissions being released into the air.
When recycling electronics which may hold confidential data, such as computer hard drives and cell phones, these must not be considered simply as scrap. The reality is that even deleted files are still present on a hard drive until they are written over completely. Hard drives and other data storage devices should be completely destroyed as part of the recycling process, to avoid compromising important personal data.