What to Do with Old Computer Monitors

What to Do with Old Computer Monitors

That old clunky computer monitor gathering dust in your basement or garage likely contains materials that could pose environmental hazards if not disposed of properly. However, with a bit of effort, you can find an eco-friendly and socially responsible way to get rid of it. This guide will walk you through various options for recycling, donating, selling, or repurposing obsolete computer monitors.


Before diving into disposal methods, let’s first define what a computer monitor is and provide some historical context around their development.

Computer monitors, also known as video display units (VDUs) or visual display units (VDUs), are electronic devices that display visual information from a computer. They most commonly use cathode ray tube (CRT) or liquid crystal display (LCD) technologies.

CRT monitors contain large, deep casings which house an electron gun that shoots beams of electrons onto a phosphor-coated screen. This lights up pixels to form an image. CRT monitors were ubiquitous from the 1960s through the early 2000s, known for their boxy, bulky aesthetic.

LCD monitors emerged in the late 90s and have since overtaken CRTs as the most common type of computer display. LCD monitors are flatter, lighter weight, and more energy efficient. They work by blocking light from a backlight using liquid crystal cells rather than shooting electrons onto a phosphor screen.

With the rapid evolution of display technologies, especially in recent decades, computer monitors tend to have relatively short lifespans before becoming obsolete. While functional, older CRT monitors are bulky and energy-inefficient compared to newer LCD options. Upgrading to a sleek flat-panel LCD monitor can provide benefits like:

  • More desktop space
  • Lighter weight
  • Improved picture quality
  • Lower energy use

However, with upgrade cycles shortening and computer sales booming since the 90s, disposal of still-functional CRT monitors poses environmental challenges. Let’s explore some eco-friendly ways to get rid of your old computer display.

Key Takeaways

  • Computer monitors contain materials that could pose environmental hazards if not disposed of properly.
  • CRT monitors rely on shooting electrons onto a phosphor screen to create images while LCDs selectively block light from a backlight.
  • LCD monitors have largely overtaken CRT displays due to their lighter weight, sleeker profiles, and energy efficiency.
  • Rapid upgrade cycles mean there are lots of still-functional CRT monitors that need proper disposal.
  • Alternatives like donating, recycling, reselling, or repurposing can avoid sending old computer monitors to landfills.

Reasons to Dispose of Old Computer Monitors

If you have an older computer monitor gathering dust, there are some key reasons you may want to properly dispose of or replace it:


Technology progresses quickly. That monitor that felt state-of-the-art 10 years ago likely feels clunky and dated now. Modern LCD monitors offer significant advantages:

  • Sleek, streamlined profiles that maximize desk space
  • Larger yet lighter displays
  • Improved picture quality and resolution
  • Enhanced energy efficiency

Upgrading to a new LCD monitor can make your computer setup feel fresh and more productive. It also allows you to take advantage of newer connection types like HDMI and DisplayPort.

Damage or Malfunction

Over time, computer monitors can suffer bumps, drops, power surges, and general wear-and-tear that degrades performance. You may notice issues like:

  • Discoloration or flickering picture
  • Dead pixels or lines on the display
  • Buzzing, cracking, or popping sounds
  • Distorted geometry
  • Intermittent powering on/off

At a certain point, repair costs outweigh the value of keeping an aging, damaged CRT monitor. Newer LCD options provide more reliable performance.

Upgrade to Newer Technology

Even if your CRT monitor still performs adequately, upgrading to an LCD unlocks features that can boost productivity:

  • Faster response times and refresh rates for smoother motion
  • Higher native resolutions for more on-screen real estate
  • Enhanced contrast ratios and color reproduction
  • Multiple inputs like HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA
  • Adjustability like pivot, swivel, and height options

Ditching a CRT for a new LCD breathing new life into a computer workstation with modern amenities.

Environmental Concerns

Finally, properly disposing of older CRT computer monitors alleviates environmental hazards associated with their materials:

  • Lead – CRTs contain 3-8 pounds of lead for shielding against radiation. Lead leaching into soil and waterways poses risks.
  • Mercury – Trace amounts of mercury are used in CRT monitors for phosphor coatings. Mercury is toxic and bioaccumulates up the food chain.
  • Cadmium – Used in CRTs for its electrical conductivity properties. Cadmium is carcinogenic and toxic.
  • Barium – Present in CRTs for blocking radiation. Soluble barium compounds are highly toxic.
  • Plastics – CRT enclosures contain plastics like PVC which can leach hazardous chemicals when discarded improperly.

Finding a responsible way to recycle CRT monitors avoids releases of these materials into the environment when sent to landfills and e-waste dumps.

ObsolescenceOlder CRT monitors are bulky, energy inefficient compared to modern LCDs
Damage/MalfunctionDegraded performance from age and wear
Upgrade to Newer TechLCDs offer better resolution, refresh rates, ergonomics
Environmental ConcernsCRTs contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, cadmium

In summary, like with any aging electronics, at a certain point it makes sense to properly retire old CRT monitors in favor of newer LCD alternatives that enhance the computing experience and reduce eco-footprint. But don’t just chuck that old monitor in the trash! Next we’ll explore some responsible ways to get rid of it.

Ways to Dispose of Old Computer Monitors

When deciding how to part ways with your obsolete computer display, consider options like:

  • Recycling
  • Donating
  • Selling
  • Repurposing
  • Disposing in a landfill (last resort)

The following sections provide an overview of the pros and cons of each method.

Recycling Old Computer Monitors

Recycling obsolete electronics like CRT monitors is the most eco-friendly disposal method. Recycling properly extracts valuable materials for reuse and ensures hazardous components are handled safely.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Prevents release of hazardous materials into environment
  • Reduces need for new raw materials
  • Creates jobs and supports recycling programs
  • Provides responsible option when donating isn’t feasible
  • Allows manufacturers to reclaim and reuse valuable components

How to Recycle a CRT Monitor

  1. Research electronics recycling options in your region. Some provide mail-back options or free drop-off days.
  2. If your local waste management provides recycling, confirm they accept CRT monitors. Policies vary by municipality.
  3. Prior to drop-off, call ahead to verify needed documentation, fees, and preparation like removing the monitor stand.
  4. Transport the CRT monitor carefully using adequate padding and restraints to prevent cracks and hazards.
  5. Provide any required paperwork and fees to facilitate processing.
  6. Enjoy your environmental stewardship! Recycling keeps hazardous e-waste out of landfills.

Finding a Recycling Center

  • Check with your local waste management company about electronics recycling programs.
  • Big box retailers like Best Buy offer drop-off recycling programs for a small fee.
  • Search online databases like Call2Recycle and Earth 911 for options.
  • Mail-back programs like GreenerGadgets facilitate recycling remotely for a reasonable fee.

For any recycling option, be sure to call ahead and review policies to ensure CRT monitors are accepted. With some diligence, you can keep that old monitor out of a landfill.

Donating Old Computer Monitors

Donating unwanted electronics like CRT monitors to charity is another great option, provided the charity accepts them.

Benefits of Donating

  • Keeps electronics from landfills
  • Provides materials for refurbishment and reuse
  • Creates low-cost technology access in communities
  • Supports employment opportunities and skills training

How to Donate a CRT Monitor

  1. Research local charities and non-profits to identify donation needs. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and habitat for humanity are a few examples.
  2. Call ahead to confirm policies – some organizations cannot accept CRTs due to space constraints or e-waste handling processes.
  3. Follow any preparation requests like securing cables or removing stands prior to drop-off.
  4. Transport the monitor safely and provide any required documentation.
  5. Enjoy supporting reuse and community access!

Finding a Donation Center

  • Start with well-known non-profits like GoodwillSalvation Army, or Habitat for Humanity.
  • Search online databases like Earth 911 and Donation Town by zip code.
  • Check electronics recycling policies even if they ultimately dismantle donations – some will accept CRTs that charities won’t.
  • If you have a working computer with the CRT monitor, consider donating the entire system to get maximum benefit.

With some legwork, donating obsolete electronics presents a feel-good option to avoid landfill waste.

Selling Old Computer Monitors

If your old CRT monitor is in good working order, selling it online or through classified ads is a viable option. This routes it directly for continued use.

Benefits of Selling

  • Makes money back on electronics vs. trash disposal
  • Directly enables ongoing use vs. recycling unknowns
  • Creates opportunities for buyers needing low-cost options

How to Sell a CRT Monitor

  1. Test and confirm the CRT monitor fully powers on without issues.
  2. Research current market prices for old CRT monitors in your region.
  3. Create listings with photos and detailed descriptions on platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, etc.
  4. Manage correspondence and arrange safe meet-ups with buyers.
  5. Clean and package the monitor carefully to avoid shipping damage if not local pickup.
  6. Collect payment upon successful hand-off.
  7. Enjoy a quick cash payout!

Finding a Buyer

  • Local classifieds like Craigslist often get interest for old computer parts.
  • Retro gaming forums and communities may have members seeking CRT monitors.
  • eBay presents a wider market, but comes with selling fees.
  • Electronics recyclers sometimes offer buy-back and resale programs worth exploring.

With some smart marketing and meeting precautions, selling a functional CRT monitor can be a win-win for you and budget-minded buyers.

Disposal MethodProsCons
RecyclingEco-friendly, extracts materials for reuse, prevents pollutionPotential fees, labor of transportation
DonatingEnables reuse, supports community programsCharities often cannot accept CRT monitors
SellingMake money back, directly reuse vs. unknown recycling pathLimited market, safety risks with meetups
RepurposingCreative way to get extended useDIY tinkering required
Landfill (last resort)Very last option if all else failsEnvironmental pollution, waste

Repurposing Old Computer Monitors

With some DIY spirit and electronics tinkering skills, an old CRT monitor could be adapted for a purpose other than its original design.

Benefits of Repurposing

  • Creative way to extend usefulness
  • Educational electronics project
  • Avoid waste and pollution
  • Make something unique and fun

Ideas for Repurposing a CRT Monitor

  • Fish tank – With guts removed, the glass CRT forms a built-in tank. Add water, fish, and decor.
  • Terrarium – Plant a mini garden inside the emptied CRT for a unique enclosed terrarium.
  • Curiosity cabinet – Display photos or art inside the CRT case for an eclectic modern take on a curiosity cabinet.
  • Clock – Gut the internals and insert a clock movement to convert the CRT into a timepiece.
  • Lamp – Remove inner components then install lighting for a modern geometric lamp.

With some combination of safely discharging capacitors, removing cases, creative mounting, and adding new mechanical or electrical elements, a defunct CRT monitor could have another life as a unique repurposed creation.

Disposing of Old Computer Monitors in Landfills

As a final last resort if no other options exist in your area, CRT monitors can be thrown out with regular landfill-bound trash. However, this squanders reusable materials and risks environmental contamination.

Risks of Landfill Disposal

  • Release of lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxins into soil and waterways
  • Wasted embedded energy from manufacturing
  • Diminishing landfill capacity

When Landfill Disposal is Necessary

  • No local recycling or donation options available
  • Cost of recycling is prohibitive
  • Monitor is broken beyond repair and unsafe to sell
  • You are unable to transport for other disposal

Under these difficult circumstances, standard trash disposal may be the only feasible option. But make an effort to explore all other methods first before resigning your old monitor to an unfortunate fate in a landfill. With some diligence and creativity, you likely can find an alternative.


Before discarding obsolete computer monitors, consider options beyond waste disposal:

  • Recycle – Extract valuable resources and prevent pollution. Recycling is the best eco-choice if available.
  • Donate – Enable reuse and support community programs. Confirm charities accept CRT monitors first.
  • Sell – Earn cash back and reuse. Viable for functional monitors, but limited market.
  • Repurpose – Prolong usefulness via DIY creativity. Requires tinkering skills.
  • Landfill – Absolute last resort with environmental risks. Avoid if any other option exists.

With some forward thinking and diligence, you can keep old computer monitors out of landfills and gain social or economic benefits. Your hardware may be obsolete, but it likely still has value. Extend its purpose with an eco-friendly handoff to a new owner, materials recycler, or creative project.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a computer monitor?

A: A computer monitor is an output device that displays information in pictorial or textual form.

Q: Why should I dispose of my old computer monitor?

A: Old computer monitors can become obsolete, damaged, or environmentally hazardous.

Q: How can I recycle my old computer monitor?

A: You can recycle your old computer monitor by finding a recycling center that accepts electronic waste.

Q: What are the benefits of donating my old computer monitor?

A: Donating your old computer monitor can benefit someone in need and reduce electronic waste.

Q: How can I sell my old computer monitor?

A: You can sell your old computer monitor online or through a local electronics store.

Q: What are some ideas for repurposing my old computer monitor?

A: You can repurpose your old computer monitor as a TV, digital picture frame, or home security monitor.

Q: Is it safe to dispose of my old computer monitor in a landfill?

A: Disposing of old computer monitors in a landfill can be environmentally hazardous and should only be done as a last resort.

Q: How do I find a recycling center for my old computer monitor?

A: You can find a recycling center for your old computer monitor by searching online or contacting your local waste management facility.

Q: Can I donate my old computer monitor to a charity?

A: Yes, many charities accept donations of old computer monitors.

Q: How do I ensure my personal data is erased from my old computer monitor before disposing of it?

A: You can erase your personal data from your old computer monitor by using a data wiping program or physically destroying the hard drive.

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