According to an article published by nature on nature sustainability, ephemeral electronic devices have become a major source of environmental waste. Among these environmental wastes are the Liquid Crystal Display screens and monitors used in computers and televisions.
Over time, these wastes have proven to be a probable source of useful metals; however, only a small portion can be recycled presently.
A relevant case study is the functional indium tin oxide film in LCD screens. Even though several LCD recycling and recovery techniques have been applied, the recovered indium still has a low purity.
Additionally, Hummingbird International affirms that 98% of an LCD can be recycled to obtain useful materials such as plastics and metals. These materials can then manufacture other important products or produce more LCD monitors.
Due to its usefulness as a potential source of raw materials and potential environmental waste, if not properly disposed of, one would wonder about the effects of leaving LCD screens unrecycled.
How Important Is LCD Recycling?
In plain terms, LCD recycling is the recycling of LCD monitors /TV by LCD/ TV recyclers either through manual techniques or automated recycling processes to obtain useful materials. According to Smartfutures, about 200 million LCDs are sold annually. When we consider the amount of waste that can be generated from this population of LCDs, effectively disposing of used LCDs becomes a significant problem
LCDs contain toxic components that must be properly disposed of to avoid health injuries. Furthermore, recycling and reusing materials obtained from LCD products is a key aspect of tackling environmental pollution from electrical waste. Usually, LCD recycling is done through several manual methods that involve the use of chemicals. A suitable alternative is automated LCD recycling, which utilizes modern LCD recycling technology.
Nevertheless, some processes of manually recycling LCD products to harvest materials can harm health. For this reason, alternatives such as technology recycling robotics and FPD display recycling have been considered better. An example is the KUKA industrial robot used by several PC monitors and electronic waste recycling companies to dismantle LCD electronics safely. An example of such a company is Votechnik, which specializes in automated LCD & FPD recycling systems. Robotic recycling saves the environment from several hazards, such as harmful gases, liquid crystals, broken glasses, etc.
What Would Happen If People Stopped Recycling LCDs?
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If the rate at which LCDs are recycled diminishes or comes to a halt, the hazardous effects will be widespread. This is because LCDs contain toxic chemicals that can cause significant hazards if accumulated in the environment.
Unfortunately, the negative effects of LCDs are not limited to the environment; humans who come in contact with the toxic components of LCDs become vulnerable to several health issues.
Hence, LCD and TV recyclers that handle damaged LCDs must be adequately trained and protected to avoid work accidents such as bodily harm and other unhealthy exposures.
Mercury can exist as a natural contaminant, but in this case, it is an artificial contaminant that emanates from improper disposal of LCDs at sites where the toxic components (Mercury) can easily access the important channels of the environment, such as water bodies, farmland, etc.
The release of processed mercury can cause a gradual increase in the amount of mercury in the environment, which finds its way into the atmospheric-soil-water distribution cycles, where it can remain in circulation for years.
Mercury poisoning results from the exposure of an individual or a living organism to mercury or compounds containing mercury in forms and amounts that can cause health issues.
For humans, the most common route of mercury exposure is through the consumption of contaminated fish, seafood, and wildlife that have been exposed to mercury via ingestion of contaminated lower organisms.
Medically, mercury toxicity is associated with several neurodegenerative diseases in adults and impaired neurological development in infants and children. Mercury toxicity is also infamous for its harmful effects on several bodily systems, including the cardiovascular, haematological, pulmonary, renal, immunological, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
In addition, mercury toxicity affects the environment by facilitating wildlife dispersal due to the contamination of their natural habitat. In severe cases, it exterminates animals in the affected environment.
Indium-Tin oxide is among the main components of an LCD. Each LCD pixel comprises a layer of molecules positioned between two transparent electrodes, often made of Indium-Tin oxide (ITO), and two polarizing filters that lie parallel and perpendicular to each other. Indium tin oxide is hazardous to human health.
If people stop recycling LCDs and throw them out without properly dumping them, there’s a chance that the indium present in those electronics will find its way out.
Compounds that contain indium are usually absorbed through inhalation and are rarely absorbed when they’re ingested. Consequently, these compounds tend to reside temporarily in the muscles, skin, and bones before being excreted.
Short and long-term inhalation of indium compounds can lead to alveolar proteinosis, inflammation, and lung fibrosis down to concentrations. Also, indium toxicity has been associated with several forms of lung cancer. All these stress that personnel that handles LCDs must be extremely careful to avoid health hazards.
Increase In Pollution And Landfills Due to Non-biodegradability
Day by day, pollution gains more ground on our planet simply because recycling isn’t taken seriously. Plastics and other electronic components, TVs, and monitors are non-biodegradable, meaning microorganisms cannot break them down into simple organic molecules that can be absorbed. These products retain their physical forms forever! Hence, careless disposal of LCDs can lead to all forms of pollution.
Furthermore, the hazardous components of these items can easily enter the soil when electronic waste stays in landfills for a long time or seeps into the water if the landfill is near a water body.
Although landfills are set up to manage electronic waste, if adequate recycling isn’t done, these landfills will pile up and make the environment uncomfortable.
Several harmful effects can result from having a nonchalant attitude toward recycling LCDs individuals and the environment. Hence, LCD recycling must be emphasized.