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Environmental comparison of plasma and LCD TVs

Environmental comparison of plasma and LCD TVs

how sustainable is…

 This study compares the environmental performance of three TV screen types:

  • Cathode Ray Tube (i.e. an old, now obsolete technology)
  • LCD screen (liquid crystal display)
  • Plasma screen

The study considers the environmental impact of these three technologies from manufacturing and distribution, to use and disposal. The study looks at a wide range of environmental impacts or issues, including:

  • finite resource depletion
  • global warming
  • ozone depletion
  • smog
  • toxicity

The study suggests that the environmental impact of the distribution (shipping) is negligible compared to the other stages of a TV’s life, regardless of technology. Manufacturing and use phase have the highest impact on the environment.

Based on this study, plasma screens have the lowest environmental impact overall, assuming the same screen size for all three technologies. LCD screens on the other hand have the highest environmental impact across most of the environmental issues considered. The differences in the environmental impact between the three technologies during their use, is relatively similar and essentially related to the electricity use.

With regards to the disposal of TVs at the end of their useful life, the study notes that if state of the art recycling technology is used, the materials that made up the TV can be re-used, reducing the environmental impact of TV manufacture.

It is noted that this study is several years old (refer below) and technology is evolving quickly. Also, it is not brand specific. It may well be that the results of this study are not applicable for the latest models of LCDs and plasma screens.

Link to full report

While we make every effort to be accurate, we do not claim that this summary is representative. Please refer to our Legal Disclaimer for details.

what can I do to reduce my environmental footprint?

If you are in the market for a TV and you can afford a plasma one, then that appears to be the better choice, from an environmental perspective, according to this study (assuming you don’t buy a larger screen size). To reduce the environmental impact of using a TV, make sure you turn it off when you don’t actually watch it and look after it, so that you get the most out of it.

Given the high environmental impact of manufacturing new TVs, you may also want to consider keeping your old TV, rather than replacing it with a newer one, only because its look is out of fashion or its got a couple of scratches.

Finally, when it comes to disposal, look for a quality e-waste recycling program, if this is available in your region, to ensure the materials that make up your TV are recycled.

Report Rating: 3 out of 3

Report Published: January 2010

Country: Switzerland

Author(s): Roland Hischier (Swiss Federal Laboratories
for Material Testing and Research, Empa), Isabelle Baudin (Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, Bafu)

Publisher: Research Gate

Funder: not indicated

Keywords: life cycle analysis, LCA, cradle to grave analysis, environmental footprint, TV, television, plasma screen, LCD, CRT

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