A recent rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging businesses to recycle their computer monitors and televisions containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs), the management of which has become a major part of the growing electronics “e-waste” challenge.
The rule excludes the recycling of CRTs from federal solid waste regulations if certain basic conditions are met. By streamlining regulatory requirements for CRT recycling, the rule is expected to promote handling of surplus monitors and televisions in an environmentally sound manner and, at the same time, boost the emerging CRT glass recycling industry. CRT glass contains toxic metals, primarily lead, that can enter the environment when these products are land filled or incinerated.
Businesses and households throughout the United States replace millions of computers and televisions each year with newer models, making older equipment obsolete. Many users are unsure of how to manage their old CRTs, and as a result frequently stash them in storage closets rather than properly reuse, recycle, or dispose of them. The recent trend in CRT recycling focuses on recovering the glass and other economically valuable materials.
Rodd Bender, a partner with the environmental and land use law firm of Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP (MGKF) in Bala Cynwyd, PA, offers advice to businesses regarding proper recycling of CRTs. He says that this new rule “will encourage CRT glass recycling, which is crucial to keep CRTs out of landfills and incinerators, preserve natural resources, and save the increased energy necessary to produce glass from virgin materials. Prior to this rule, a business considering sending used CRTs for recycling may have been subject to burdensome environmental regulations as a hazardous waste generator and, therefore, may have been deterred from doing so.”
Bender said that EPA and industry representatives aimed to advance the CRT glass recycling sector with this new rule. Now, in most cases, used, intact CRTs should be excluded from solid waste regulation unless disposed, and broken CRTs may also avoid such regulation if recycled using certain basic storage, packaging and labeling requirements. These regulatory changes should motivate companies to send old units for recycling. Recycled CRT glass can be used to manufacture new CRT glass as well as a variety of other products.
The increasing interest in recycling CRTs and other e-waste is evident in the recent announcement by Dell Computer that it will assist customers to recycle their old computers. In addition, in July 2006 the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a report that analyzed barriers to growth in the e-waste recycling sector.
Bender says, “this new rule is a positive step and may lead government and industry to work together on other ways to streamline e-waste recycling regulations, which will benefit both the environment and the economy.”