Carrying CRTs at Lajpat Rai Market

At the Lajpat Rai electronics market in Delhi, India, nobody bats an eye when a man walks by carrying a stack of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) on his head.

A man carries a pair of CRTs on his head at Lajpat Rai

Kyle visited Lajpat Rai, which is across the street from The Red Fort, in February last year. At the market, electronics of all types are collected, repaired, remanufactured, and resold. Many fixers work on cell phones; the photo at the top of this post, of a man repairing a voltmeter, was also taken at Lajpat Rai.

We’re not sure where this man was heading with his load of CRTs. At one CRT re-manufacturing shop in Delhi, workers cut off the electron guns at the back of computer monitor CRTs and attach new guns to resell the devices as televisions. At many Delhi scrapyards, CRTs that cannot be remanufactured are destroyed. Hopefully the glass is recycled, although it’s a challenge to do so without releasing lead and harmful phosphors into the environment. The strict workplace safety controls that regulate electronics recycling facilities in the West don’t yet exist in developing countries.

That uncertainty is part of the problem we hope to address with this site. Up until a CRT reaches the consumer, we have a pretty good idea where it’s going: manufacturers source materials and create devices at a factory. Then, the factory ships the devices to retail stores, where consumers purchase them. After that, though, the flow gets more complicated, and CRTs show up in all kinds of unlikely places.

As the west moves toward flat-screen devices, many more CRTs are ending up in the developing world. My home computer and television are both CRTs, but I imagine I’ll be upgrading within the next few years. Do you know what happened to your last CRT monitor? Perhaps it passed through Lajpat Rai.