Monitors are a problem. We need them for our daily work, and here at Creative Bloq we often review the latest screens designed for creative people. But historically they have been one of the worst offenders when it comes to unsustainable e-waste.
Progress is being made in recycling more components from computers and peripherals, but the small circuit boards in LCD monitors tend to contain burnt chemicals, including lead and mercury. A lot of e-waste is sent to Africa for processing, and there are often not enough facilities to deal with these toxic elements.
MMD, which makes monitors for Philips, took part in a pilot project that could point the way forward. The project in Nigeria shows how defective monitors can be recycled in an environmentally friendly and economical way (if you’re looking to upgrade to a modern, more sustainable monitor, check out our pick of the best 4K monitors).
The PREVENT Waste Alliance, an initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aimed to develop a viable business model based on the concept of e-waste compensation, which is already used in the supply of mobile phones, laptops and tablets. A fee is added to the purchase price of new electronic equipment to fund the collection of old equipment for safe recycling.
The raw materials recovered are then reused in the manufacture of new products, making them waste neutral. The pilot program, which also involved TCO Development, the organization behind the TCO Certified IT sustainability certification, aimed to extend the solution to monitoring by training staff on how to dismantle them safely.
Due to the lack of experience in flat screen recycling in Nigeria, used monitors are often dumped into landfills, posing health and environmental risks. Staff were trained in how to safely dismantle flat screens, how to remove mercury-containing black light tubes and how to separate different types of plastics, including those containing hazardous brominated flame retardants.
By the end of the project, which involved the collection of over 5,500 unusable monitors, the recycler was able to safely and efficiently dismantle displays, reducing the costs of such work. About 30 tonnes of electronic waste was collected and waste compensation was sold to MMD.
Newer monitors do not contain mercury and MMD notes that they do not contain lead either. However, there are thousands of old LCD monitors out there and many will be thrown away in the years to come. An initiative of this nature could provide a solution. See our selection of the best monitors for photographers for more current devices or see our selection of the best monitor calibrators to check your screen.