Copper in CRTs: A Follow Up

This stash of CRTs was accumulated while scrapping. CRTs are very
easy to get for free, as people are always trying to dispose of them

You may or may not remember, but I previously posted regarding the inside of CRT monitors.

This Saturday I spent all morning breaking apart 20 CRT monitorsdisassembled half of the pile of 40 CRT monitors pictured at right. I spent roughly 15 minutes per monitor…And that was because I was harvesting EVERYTHING. (sometimes it was more if the monitor was bigger and older, sometimes it was less if it was newer and smaller.)  I used a power drill, some big pliers, side cutters, a hammer, a bolt cutter, and a long screw driver (to reach deep screws). 

I make separate piles for

  • Copper breakage (transformers, inductors, and the black box controller thing that I ripped from the circuit board with some big pliers)
  • Aluminum heat sinks/aluminum magnetic shields
  • Stainless steel shields and stainless steel yoke fastener rings
  • Wire
  • Copper Yoke
  • Degaussing coil (check link for info on how to strip)
  • What ever metal is left over (shred pile)
  • ABS plastic shells

I have developed my own technique. Here are some tips for those who want to try this themselves:

  • Use a screw driver or power drill to unfasten the 4 little screws holding down the main case.
  • Do NOT break the leaded glass when pulling out the yoke! Take the two stainless steel fasteners off with a power drill. If you do that, you can just twist the copper yoke off without breaking the glass.
  • There is a decent amount of industrial buy paxil online grade wire in each CRT, not to mention the power cord and video cord.
  • There is a whole circuit boards chalked full of small transformers in there too! Pull those off of the board with some big pliers, seeing as they pay 4 times the price of the printed circuit board.
  • There is usually a fair number of aluminum heat sinks on the circuit board that many people look over…

I can understand ignoring some of these metals when you are breaking apart one CRT. But I’m not. 

After I’m done making all my piles, I take a hammer and break the copper out of all the yokes. (I sweep up the metal left over from the yokes and throw it into the shred pile). I strip all the degaussing coil with a straight razor by hand. Here are my numbers for my 20 monitors I broke open in a just under 5 hours.

  • Copper breakage: 24# @ $.25 per = $6
  • Copper 2: 22# @ $3.00 per = $66
  • High Grade Wire: 13# @ $1.90 per = $24.70
  • Contaminated Aluminum: 19# @ $.40 per = $7.6
  • Non-Magnetic Stainless Steel: 5# @ $.66 per = $3.30

Brings my total to $107.60

My total time spent on Saturday was 5.2 hours including travel, bringing my hourly wage for this morning to $20.69 per hour (not including the shred pile, which I left behind). 

I sell all types of scrap copper, not just scrap breakage and copper 2. Get the overview of Scrap Copper.


The Irrationalist November 14, 2010 at 7:11 pm

I save the plastic shell because there is a plastics recycler that buys ABS plastics for 10 cents a pound.

George February 23, 2012 at 3:09 am

Really? I could only find on willing to pick up if I had 5000 lbs on had. Living in Chicago, my wife put her foot down with the space issue. I hate throwing it way but I have no choice!

ScrapMetalJunkie February 23, 2012 at 3:14 am

Willing to pick up, and willing to buy from you when delivered to their dock is two different things.

Anonymous November 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I really like these types of articles, where you document how to break down stuff and what sort of metals are in them. Hopefully, you'll do more in the future. Also, could you write (or direct me towards) articles about how to identify the various types and grades of metals?

The Irrationalist November 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Of Course!! I actually have my very own page dedicated to identifying different scrap metals right HERE! I hope this helps and if you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to email me directly, or preferably, keep COMMENTING! Good Luck!

Posi Jeff The Record Guy November 14, 2010 at 9:05 pm

wow, all the times I see these things on the side of the road or at a yard sale for free and never thought to pick them up. Its the closest thing to a gold mine I'll ever get!

Anonymous November 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

So, what will you do with the glass? Since I thought that was the part that a lot of dumps didn't want to deal with.

I've been tempted to try to get some of the copper alloy things at thrift stores (Goodwill, etc.) and see what the yard will give me. Though, the biggest problem I have with the local yard is that don't want to pay out small amounts…

Mitch December 24, 2010 at 8:02 am

What do you do with the leaded glass, how can I dispose of it properly and is there a easy way that you dispose of it?

I am thinking about collecting till I have a few than one day tear them apart so similar to what you did.

thanks in advance

Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

I've been saving all the little transformers from e-scrap. Most came from TVs & CRTs. I just easilly rip them from the circuit boards and put them in a bucket. It takes little effort and only a small space in the garage to store them. Over time I ended up with 138lbs of them @ .25. $35 for taking an extra 2 seconds each time I tear apart a componant. Its not much but its better then nothing.

William March 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Be careful when opening CRT monitors and TVs. Static electricity can buildup in them, particularly in the anode, and power supply unit (PSU), and remain for considerable periods of time. We're talking about 20-30 thousand volts, which could potentially be deadly, and at the very least will ruin your day.

The static buildup can be discharged (whether it can be done safely or not, at home, is debatable) with the right tools (i.e. an insulated screwdriver, and alligator clamps). Actually newer units often automatically discharge, however it's good practice to assume every one you deal with doesn't, for whatever reason. If you are going to be opening a lot of CRTs it would be advisable to read up on how to properly do it, and then seriously consider whether you feel comfortable with the task.

Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm

how about lcd monitors/tvs- in know there are wires and stuff- but what about the main parts

The Irrationalist April 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

The LCDs are cheaper because they don't have such heavy, bulky components. And actually, I believe they have mercury, so be careful when breaking them apart. They have transformers, ect. The more you avoid breaking them, the better. If they work at all, sell them used before selling them as shred steel. That being said…

The LCD monitors have some gold components in their electronics that are worth more then motherboards.

They have some cool components, polarizers, ect that are just fun to have.

DGRR August 19, 2011 at 2:24 am

I just started scrapping CRTs and finding that all the degaussing cable wires look like aluminum. Is this possible?
An informative site that has made me look at scrapping more metal than precious and being more informed.

ScrapMetalJunkie August 19, 2011 at 12:45 pm

The degausing cables are sometimes made of aluminum, about 1 in 10 I guess. The other 90% are usually copper. The newer smaller tvs are notorious for having aluminum degausing cable.

Jeff August 25, 2011 at 1:56 am

Hey thx for taking the time to make this website. 🙂 I was wondering if you knew what the deal was about this aluminum wire that looks like copper. i make about $8.50 an hr at work which pays the bills but leaves me with no food money. Since I deliver car parts during the week , I always watch out for scrap metal, which has been working out to pay the food bill. Whenever I get motors from vacuum cleaners fans etc, I always bust them up and get the coiled wire inside the motors. The copper I been saving for emergency and emergency car repair. Today I needed to cash in some of the copper and the guys at the scrap place pulled out about 1/3 of the coiled wire and said it was aluminum. But the stuff was copper colored but they were right about it feeling sorta light. Are alot of fan motors and vacuum cleaner motors made of aluminum coiled wire? It’s a little pain in the a__ to extract the coils and it ain’t worth it if they are only going to pay aluminum prices. Do you know if aluminum is usually used in small motors but not bigger ones or is it like a hit and miss thing where you don’t know what is aluminum and what is copper until you tear it apart? Thx for any info you can give 🙂

ScrapMetalJunkie August 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Unfortunately, motor wire doesn’t need to be made of copper in most cases. Enameled aluminum wire (which looks like copper) can be used, and it usually results in a much bulkier looking motor. Fortunately for us, it is possible to tell what type of wire is used before taking it apart. Use a file or a sharp object to scratch away the enamel; if the wire underneaths is white, then it is aluminum. If the motor has aluminum wire, then just sell it as motor scrap.

Mike Anderson December 3, 2011 at 3:58 am

do you not get the metal chasis by breaking the glass that is a lot of steal you are losing out on…..The best way is set it inside a trash can and just brake the glass away from the steel

Gio December 7, 2011 at 11:10 pm

How do you remove the copper yolk from the CRT? I’ve heard about breaking it off but I hear that can cause an implosion…

tony December 12, 2011 at 1:42 am

On average, how many ounces/pounds of copper is inside a CRT monitor?

ScrapMetalJunkie December 12, 2011 at 7:33 am

There are maybe 1-2 pounds, but it depends on how far you want to break everything down.

Gio December 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

It seems on some of the monitors I have the yoke is connected to the tube. I removed all the screws around it to take off the circuit box but the yoke won’t go. How do I get the yoke off those? Or am I missing something?

ScrapMetalJunkie December 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Great question! There is a very small amount of glue/rubber/insulator that make the yokes “stick” to the glass. To get them off (after you have taken off the SS fastener) it just takes a firm twist. The yoke should break free like a Snapple cap.

Matthew January 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

I’ve been scrapping older T.Vs, Monitors and Motors lately. Keep what you take out. ie. wires, heat sinks and those tiny little transformers. (They may be tiny but after you unravel them and put the copper wire in your copper wire pile, brother it pays off). If your going to take the time to do this then you should get what money you can for your time. I started keeping track (in my mind) of how many hours and how much I was getting for my efforts but after a while, I stopped. I just do it and do it. My feeling now is NOT how much time I’m spending but HOW MUCH I am getting paid for what I am doing. After walking out of the scrap house with a stack of cash in my hand, I don’t think of how long it took but what can I strip now and where can I get it. Aluminum. Hmm. Can’t say too many good things about aluminum but remember, keep what you take out. It may be heat sinks or aluminum wire but it adds up.

kevin January 7, 2012 at 4:54 am

you can scrap out compressors from central a/c units . they have about 4 pounds of copper wire inside. i use a sawzall or angle grinder with a metal cutting blade to cut the top off , its hard work but pays better than scraping them for steel.

ScrapMetalJunkie January 9, 2012 at 2:16 am

Yes you can! Check up my write up of how to scrap AC units.

Adam January 15, 2012 at 2:38 am

what is in the glass tube that the yoke sits in, and what would happen if you broke the glass on the end of it. would mercury come out at all?

ScrapMetalJunkie January 15, 2012 at 2:50 am

Nope. Inside of the glass is a vacuum (Meaning no air.) There is also a coating of phosphorus on the “front” of the glass. This is what makes the light come out of the screen. There will be no “Spilling” of anything if teh glass is broken… all you need to worry about it cleaning up the broken glass. In the off chance that you come into contact with teh phosphorus, or that it is “loose” and starts floating in the air, do not breath it in, and wash your hands. The phosphorus is not going to hurt you, but ingesting or breathing it will.

Brian February 12, 2012 at 1:44 am

Can I get some information on where to sell the plastic casings. Thanks alot!

ScrapMetalJunkie February 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Your ability to sell the plastic will depend entirely on the market in your area. I found that the west coast generally has a better market for plastic scrap, and the rest of the US doesn’t have as many small merchants. If you can get into contact with plastic grinders, or plastic recyclers, they will be buying the scrap as ABS scrap, but some may have limitations on how many stickers they will allow on the scrap, adhesives, etc. Your best bet will be looking up “plastic recyclers”, “scrap plastic” or “plastic regrind” on google maps (in your area).
Best of Luck!

Harry Heiny April 11, 2012 at 6:37 am

Whenever I remove the circuit board attached to the yoke, I hear a hiss of air going into the CRT. The skinny part of the CRT, which the yoke encircles, has metal in it. That metal is non-magnetic stainless (usually). Sometimes I harvest that, also.

I do scrapping as a side business. I get $20+/hour (gross) for my scrapping activities. My basic business plan is to maximize my margin.

kingpablo June 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Congratulations on doing something so badly that you are contaminating the environment. The glass that you are “Disposing” of is leaded glass, and is considered by the EPA to be haz mat. Combining that with the phosphorus that you are allowing to escape, rather than be captured, you are multiplying the problem. All this, is also, at this point, illegal in many states, so expect you are at some point going to be fined thousands of dollars for your activity.

ScrapMetalJunkie June 21, 2012 at 12:17 am

Very well said! Illegal in many states, however, is not the same as illegal in all states; so there are many people who can still do this as a way to make money (when unemployed, for example). Best of luck with your eWaste Business, KingPablo!

Crabe080 June 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Is this illegal in Indiana? I’m not completely sure where to check for this law. Thanks for the awesome guide though!

Ben July 21, 2012 at 9:28 am

it’s actually phosphor, not phosphorous which is a garden fertiliser,
phosphor is what it is and it’s bad stuff.
there are crt recyclers these days that will take crt’s that have been
stripped bare, but usually only take crt’s from registered tv scrappers
that do volumes.

but i’m sure if you looked around you will find a crt recycler near you,
there are millions of crt’s in landfill so it’s already bad, if you scrap tv’s then
recycling crt’s properly means your actually making a difference.
any scrapper that says they are helping the environment and dumping crt’s
are full of it, and the people that break yolks off from tv’s on street kerbs
are ruining scrapping for everyone, leaving deadly contaminated broken glass on the
nature strip where kids will play when the trash is gone.

you can really do well scrapping all electrical goods, make lot’s of money.
but your not a champion unless your responsible in how you scrap.
respecting the waste you create, respecting the pile of trash you rummage through,
respecting the residents putting out all the goodies for you, then your a champion.

Chris August 6, 2012 at 3:26 am

SMJ, is it possible to recover the lead from the leaded glass in a smelter?

Alex August 22, 2012 at 2:51 am

I gotta say that ABS plastic could sell good to anyone that has a plastic 3D printer since ABS plastic is the main plastic used for it. Just add a couple dyes and you got multicolored ABS! Or instead of selling it to some company, sell it to a plastic extruded place where they take the plastic, melt it down and make it into long string of it.

Jimmie Johnston November 8, 2012 at 1:04 am

In reading this thread, I see a lot of confusion about how to handle the cathode ray tube. My dad taught me to scrap these years ago, and there are some very important steps in dealing with these, as the picture tube holds a vacuum. Mishandling a vacuum tube can cause it to implode, which can be dangerous and messy. The first thing I always do with a CRT is bleed the tube. This is easily done if you know how, requires a screwdriver, a hammer, correct placement, and a delicate tap and very slight twist. I DO NOT RECCOMEND THAT ANYONE ATTEMPT THIS WITHOUT BEING PERSONALLY PHYSICALLY SHOWN HOW TO DO IT.
To remove the yolk, after removing all screws, circuit box, etc… I grasp it on both sides, and (I am right handed) quickly “spin” the coil to the right, pushing with my right hand and pulling with my left. This sharp rapid movement breaks the glue bond with the tube, without breaking it. I’ve done this with CRT’s I forgot to bleed a few times, and I have not broken one yet. I leave it up to you to decide whether to bleed the tube, and what to do with the unbroken glass tube afterwards.

Jerseygunner December 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I have over 30 CRT’s. What do you do with the CRT tube after I strip all of the metal out of the case?

David Arduser February 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Jerseygunner, that is my question. I have taken a load or two of these to the landfill, and had to pay my hard earned scrap money for them to take it. I want to be responsible about their disposal, but I would like a better solution than hauling them to the landfill or just breaking them or dumping them somewhere… Anyone have any thoughts?

Bob June 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm

What do you do with the left over crt glass?

AUBREY KAUT RERESI November 30, 2013 at 10:38 am

I am from Papua New Guinea,how do I sell my computor scrap for cash.

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