Electronics Recyclers ‘Stockpiling CRT Glass’

by | Nov 20, 2012

US electronics recyclers have stockpiled 860 million pounds of cathode ray tube glass from TVs and monitors, instead of recycling the material, according to a report from Transparent Planet.

The report, “US CRT Glass Management: A Bellweather for Sustainability of Electronics Recycling in the United States” shows that many US electronics recyclers have collected payment for old CRT TVs and monitors, but instead of sending the toxic leaded CRT glass to proper glass processors, they stored it on their property and other locations.

The report, compiled in cooperation with the Electronics Take-Back Coalition and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, said a combination of market factors and mismanagement have caused price wars and stockpiling of collected glass.

Recyclers used to earn $205 per ton recycling CRT glass in 2004. But with shrinking options for processing CRT glass, the economics have flipped. Now recyclers must pay $200 per ton, a net loss in value of $405 per ton in eight years, the Electronics Take-Back Coalition said. The inequity is largely caused by electronics manufacturer takeback programs, which do not pay their recyclers enough per pound to manage this toxic glass properly, the organization said.

EPA regulations limit “speculative accumulation” of used CRTs or CRT glass because of their potential to release toxins into the environment and over concerns that companies might abandon sites with piles of toxic glass, the Electronics Take-Back Coalition said.

CRT glass is difficult to recycle because it contains lead. Typical CRT TVs or monitors each contain four to eight pounds of lead in the glass tube, and the inside of the tubes get coated with toxic phosphor dust, said Electronics Take-Back Coalition.

The organization said problems with stockpiling and ghost pounds, where a recycler charges a manufacturer’s takeback program for more e-waste than they’ve actually collected, could be resolved by changing state laws to include baseline pricing for CRT glass management and requiring third-party mass balance monitoring of collection volumes.

The coalition also encourages manufacturer to design products with materials valuable enough and easy enough to recover for new manufacturing.

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