[Wikipedia] "In 19th century psychiatry, monomania (from Greek monos, one, and mania, mania) is a single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind. Emotional monomania is that in which the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it; intellectual monomania is that which is related to only one kind of delirious idea or ideas. In 1880, monomania was one of the seven recognized categories of mental illness. ...
The Cathode Ray Tube, or CRT, is declining in production, declining in demand, and declining in numbers discarded. Markets for CRT glass cullet are shrinking. But most alarming - CRT recycling may be declining in "ewaste" importance.
The demand for CRTs at reuse factories, estimated at over 50,000 units per day ten years ago, has dwindled to a few hundred thousand units per month. I have made a career chasing the White CRT Tube. Now Amazon and Best Buy are setting up takeback programs for small cell phones, ipods, and other hand-held devices - probably to be sold back to the same factories that made them (manufacturer takeback), the exact same business model I developed for the CRT computer monitor. In other words, sell them back to Asia, the same as you do warranty returns. I'll be without a lot of CRTs to manage, and without many people doing something other than I've been doing. It could get quiet around here.
As a technology, it was an amazing success. CRT sales have actually outlasted LCDs. That's right, the LCD factories are closing now, yielding to newer LED display technology. The last LCD factory is expected to close before the last new CRT factory. And the individual CRTs last longer, too. TV and monitor CRTs which are turned in to Good Point Recycling often work perfectly after 25 or 30 years.
It was the cost of CRT cullet recycling which drove "toxics along for the ride"... the cullet was expensive to process. Some say the harm of the lead melted into the cullet (vitrified) was exaggerated, but no one was happy to get a busted CRT tube without getting paid to handle it. It became the definition of "unfair trade", and the "CRT Test" became a litmus test for "sham recycling".
The end may be in sight, but we have a long ways to go. We are seeing a decline in the number of CRT computer monitors coming in to Good Point Recycling. But the big old television CRTs are still coming in at quite a clip, driven not by failure but by the falling costs of flat screens. They too will eventually decline in number... but for now, they are just growing in SIZE and WEIGHT.
What makes the CRTs interesting to write about is the roll they played in the demonization of "e-waste". They failed TCLP tests, and regulators began to assume everything else, from ink cartridges to hard drives to plastic with flame retardents, was dangerous too. But they were also a great tool... they last for years, are difficult to steal, easy to repair. For Egyptians, African, Latin Americans - the 3 billion people earning 3 thousand per year, the people getting online at ten times the rate of Americans in the past decade - the export of working CRTs made the difference for internet access. They were imported from people who upgraded display units as a fashion statement (Moores law does not apply to make CRTs obsolete).
What makes Ahab's pursuit of the Whale interesting, or Sir Gawain's encounter with the Green Knight worth retelling, is not "whales" and "headless knights" per se. If the reuse business is killed now, it will not kill Good Point Recycling. We will calmly pick up our head, and promise to come back for our turn. No one knows more than we do about these markets, and no one who thinks they have leapfrogged us has really done so.
Notice in the chart below how CRTs are constantly forecasted downward... but stubbornly hang on (look at actual 2008-2010 data, not the forecast for 2011-onward). Every year they print this chart, and every year it turns out that the LCD market has shrunk, and CRTs are still there. They'll go away eventually - Samsung Corning's CRT furnace in Malaysia skipped its 5-year maintenance. That's like not changing the oil in a car you expect to ditch anyway. But the history of the CRT market is huge in comparison to LCD, and CRTs are still 50% of new sales in places like India.