UT Studies How Computer Monitors Affect Environment (275)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee study could lead to development of more environmentally friendly computer monitors.

Maria Socolof, a researcher in UT’s Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies, said 12 million monitors are disposed of yearly. About 75 percent go to landfills and the rest are incinerated or recycled, she said.

Most monitors use cathode ray tubes that contain lead, a toxic metal that can cause neurological disorders. These monitors use an average of about 120-kilowatt hours of electricity per year — about the same as a 60-watt light bulb on continuously for a year. This impacts the environment because electric power production can contribute to air pollution and global warming, Socolof said.

Liquid crystal displays used in laptop computers consume less energy, but often contain toxic metals such as mercury and can take more energy to manufacture, Socolof said.

Socolof is surveying monitor manufacturers and other sources to identify environmental impacts of the product’s entire life cycle, including manufacture, performance, usage and disposal.

The findings will be distributed to help manufacturers consider alternative materials and processes to reduce environmental risks, Socolof said.

“This project will provide data to computer display and component manufacturers and suppliers to help them identify areas for environmental improvement,” Socolof said. “It will encourage them to consider environmental factors when manufacturing and purchasing computer displays or components.”

The project is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment Program, which works with industry to identify cost-effective product and manufacturing alternatives, reduce risks to workers and the environment, and maintain or improve performance and product quality.

Contact: Maria Socolof (423-974-9526)