Where old TV screens go to die

Time was, we used to recycle old cathode ray tubes from TVs and computer monitors into new ones. Obviously, though, there's no longer a demand for new CRTs — or the specialized leaded glass they're made of. As a result, the last generation of CRTs is piling up into a "glass tsunami", filling storage units and swiftly becoming a liability to the recyclers who used to make money off them.


    1. I was thinking the nuclear industry and/or the federal gov should buy the leaded glass for the vitrification and storage of high level nuclear waste.  I think it would be perfect for it.

  1. I imagine the difficulty must be in separating the lead from the glass, because bulk lead sells for $0.75 – $1.50 per pound and according to that story each TV CRT contains “up to 8 pounds of lead”.

    1. ‘Vitrification’ is, as it happens, a very promising technique for semi-permanent encapsulation of undesireable heavy metals (radioactive wastes, for instance).

      I don’t doubt that a chemist with a decent budget and a supply of ghastly halogens could show the glass who is boss; but probably not for $1.50/lb.

  2. Hang on a sec…

    Most experts say that the larger solution to the growing electronic waste problem is for technology companies to design products that last longer, use fewer toxic components and are more easily recycled. Much of the industry, however, seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

    Cathode ray tubes have been largely replaced by flat panels that use fluorescent lights with highly toxic mercury in them, said Jim Puckett, director of Basel Action Network, an environmental advocacy group. Used panel screens from LCD televisions and monitors, for example, do not have much recycling value, so many recyclers are sending them to landfills.

    That’s the first generation of flat panels dying with the mercury. Unless I’m mistaken, virtually all LCD panels sold today employ LED backlights which AFAIK last a hell of a lot longer and don’t pose any risk of toxicity.

    So I think the author has that supposed trend arse-about; it comes off as tabloid-level journalism.

    1. The problem isn’t necessarily that the product doesn’t last long, as much as it is that people just like to buy new stuff. This TV is bigger, it’s thinner, it has 3D…

      One thing the article highlights that really upsets me is how often the government (and by extension, the taxpaying public) is swindled by contractors taking advantage of these government programs. It’s not just the recycling programs, but many others – perhaps elimination would reduce our budget problems measurably? But I think I know how that story ends… lobbyists, continued funding for programs, politicians with fatter pockets.

    2. So +10 years of LCD panels that don’t have LED backlights?

      I’m still staring at my LCD monitor that’s not LED backlite.  Just plain old TFT techonology.  Samsung SyncMaster 730B, it’s what, almost 10 years old?  And it’s the ONLY monitor, unlike some people that need two.

      In this case, I think it’s the recycle value and difficulty on LCD panels when compared to CRT.  Most panels aren’t glass and plastic is not a valuable recycle material.

      1. Not to be over nitpicky but TFT is the screen tech.  A lot of IPS panels still use CFL as their backlight, I think it must provide a better color accuracy.

  3. You should always complete your own due diligence of prospective recyclers for your used electronics. Here are two third-party certified standards that some recyclers have paid money to register with, so that you can find them and ask them your Nth-degree questions until you are as satisfied as you can be with a prospective recycler.  http://www.r2solutions.org/ and http://e-stewards.org/

  4. man, no wonder!  I was looking into taking my two CRTs to the recycle drop-off.  it’s way the hell up in Marietta–borrow a car, buy gas, two or three hours of time on my day off instead of walking them over to my dumpster for 15-20 min.  looking at the web page, all batteries and electronics can just be dropped, but CRTs require a $10 fee, each.

    we could get a govt subsidy for digital receivers for the CRTs when we switched the broadcasting method, but we have to shell out-of-pocket to keep toxic shit out of the landfill?  another example of misplaced priorities in the US.

    meanwhile, two giant CRT beasts sit on my living room floor.  wat do?

  5. We could adopt a new tradition of Thanksgiving day Turkey on the old Cathode tube turned into a platter for serving. Minimal effort to cut up and reuse the bulkiest part of the tube in the form it comes in. This is a joke, cuz lead, but there is a seed of a real idea here. Minimal reworking into a useable thing, radiation shield, or some such.

  6. I would think that the lead in the glass would be relatively non-leachable and hence not exactly the hazard that one would think…

    Looks like the glass doesn’t pass the EPA’s TCLP test — basically, a test to see if solids will leach toxic substances.
    Characterization of Lead Leachability from Cathode Ray Tubes using TCLP test

    A total of 36 CRTs were processed and analyzed. CRT samples produced an average concentration of 18.5 mg/L lead. This exceeds the regulatory limit of 5.0 mg/L. Several factors affected the TCLP lead concentrations of each CRT. These included the location of the glass in the CRT (face plate, funnel, neck), the particle size used in the tests, and the CRT type. The most significant quantities of lead were contained in the funnel portion of the CRTs at an average lead concentration of 75.3 mg/L. The major source of lead in the funnel is the frit seal of color CRTs.
    Monochrome CRTs did not leach lead greater than hazardous levels.

  7. I picked up one of those digital to analog TV converters on a lark-hooked it up to the analog TV. The picture is amazing. It beats the HDTV. Why is that? I’m no tech genius, and according to the lines of resolution it should be LESS sharp.. so why is the picture on the old analog sooo much sharper and crisper? Can someone explain? Try it yourself. Unfortunately, those converters only work on OTA broadcasts, but I compared it to a new LG 30″ screen, the old TV picture is gorgeous in comparison.

    1. HDTV screens are optimized for high res images that show allot of detail, 1920×1080 in most cases. If you feed it a low quality image, it starts to upscale itself, wich tend to get ugly and pixely.

      Analog tvs are optimized for low res pictures. Wich results in a sharp image but less detail and it cannot show all the detail of an HD signal.
      Most digital tv broadcasts are not HD and thus are better suited to old TVs.

    2.  You might have a nice analog set and a newer LCD display that has poor blacks.   Blacks are hard to do on LCD and only recently have they gotten decent, and at that you have to pay more for it.   The blacks give the image a look of ‘depth’ that can be missing if it only goes to dark grey.

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