EPA Releases Updated FAQ on Cathode Ray Tubes

The EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery is pleased to announce the release of an updated set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the existing cathode ray tube (CRT) regulation. This set of FAQs includes both new and updated questions that have been added to the original set of CRT FAQs that were released April 2013.   EPA first published the CRT FAQs to assist entities that collect, manage, and recycle used CRTs and CRT glass with understanding the federal regulations that apply to these materials.

Several specific updates include:

(1) What RCRA requirements apply to CRT panel glass (which generally does not fail TCLP), and

(2) What it means for a person to “show that the material is potentially recyclable and has a feasible means of being recycled” under the speculative accumulation provision.

For additional information about this FAQ and CRT recycling, please contact ISRI staff Eric Harris, director of government and international affairs,  at 202-662-8514 and David Wagger, director of environmental management, at 202-662-8533.

Clearing up the CRT rules

The proposed changes to rules governing the recycling of Cathode Ray Tubes were a topic of hot conversation in Las Vegas last month.

William Damico, a Region 5 EPA Enforcement Officer, spoke at the recent Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, hoping to offer the EPA’s viewpoints on the rule and to clear up any confusion on what the government agency is trying to accomplish by revising its regulations.

The electronics recycling industry is currently operating under a CRT rule passed on July 28, 2006.

“There was a misconception that the rule brought the cathode ray and other monitor tube devices in the realm of regulation of hazordous waste,” Damico said. “Actually, they always were. We weren’t very active in enforcing those rules.”

The rule didn’t clearly address many of the realities of exporting CRTs for recycling, Damico said.. A revision by the EPA in 2011 hopes to clarify the government’s position on management of the materials and how the EPA plans to enforce the regulation.

“CRTs are a limited commodity, not going to be with us forever and it’s possible the market will disappear before amount of CRT disappears,” Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste. “It’s not just about CRTs, it’s about other hazardous materials we can use in this way.”

In order for others to utilize those recyclable items, it’s a must for recyclers to dismantle the product before shipping it out of the United States’ borders, Murray said. He noted his organization is supporting barring the trans-state shipping of non-dismantled CRTs for recycling.

“The recycler won’t get paid unless they’ve demonstrated they’ve dismantled the device or demonstrate sending to an approved dismantler.”

If that isn’t done, some recyclers may just hold on to those items for an infinite amount of time and, if enough stack up enough, they might be on the next episode of A&E’s “Hoarders.”

Leaded glass found in the CRTs must be included in the recycling loop, but the markets for the material are drying up. Prices have declined drastically in recent years, said David Cauchy of Closed Loop Recycling.

“It’s a significant change economically,” Cauchy said. “The market hasn’t adjusted to it, in my opinion. It’s a serious issue, when you talk about the tonnage that’s available and the technologies that are available to recycle it. It’s a serious issue in the e-waste industry.”

Cauchi said the CRTs need to be recycled as a whole and not just end up a fodder for a landfill.

“We feel there should be places where CRTs are processed in their entirety and make a profit at that facility so it could compete with landfills,” he said.

EPA’s proposal to impose additional notification requirements on exporters handling used, intact CRTs intended for re-use raises jurisdictional issues, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.  Despite RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) jurisdiction being limited to materials that have been “discarded,” the proposal intends to expand EPA’s reach to also cover used, functioning CRTs exported for reuse.  The rationale is based on the grounds that the export of such used products might actually be intended for some purpose other than re-use and therefore raising a concern that the CRT’s might be improperly discarded at a future date and place.  This assertion is contrary to US law as RCRA’s jurisdiction does not extend to reusable CRTs, especially functional units, ISRI says.

EPA explains desire to update CRT rule

Is there a way for the EPA to get regulatory compliance on the growing used electronics issue on a long-term basis?

That question was recently brought up to Lisa Feldt, Deputy Assistant Administrator EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual Convention and Expo.

“We are committed in this administration and there is enough infrastructure in place that principles of the framework will last well beyond my tenure in the EPA,” Feldt said.

One such push in the EPA’s proposed revision to the rule and regulations governing export of Cathode Ray Tube rule. CRTs are the large, bulky leaded glass displays used in television sets for several decades until flat-screen technologies like Plasma and LCDs made it obsolete.

In 2002, the EPA made the rule “to encourage recycling and reuse of used CRTs and CRT glass.”

There’s a need for better regulation, the EPA says, to close loopholes and eliminate potential abuses of the law.

“When used CRTs are exported for recycling or reuse, there may be several persons involved from the time that a decision is made to export these materials up to the time that the actual export occurs. The trade in used electronics can take place along a chain of businesses that collect, refurbish, dismantle, recycle, and reprocess used electronic products and their components,” the EPA states in its proposed change of regulations, available here.

The proposal defines exporters of CRTs as “any person in the United States who initiates a transaction to send used CRTs outside the United States or its territories for recycling or reuse, or any intermediary in the United States arranging for such export.’’

Under current law, exporters of CRTs must notify the EPA of an intended shipment 60 days before the shipment occurs. Notifications may cover exports extending over a 12-month or shorter period. This notification includes information about the exporting recycler, the importing recycler and the frequency and estimated quantity to be shipped, and which countries the material will pass through on its way to its final destination.

The EPA then it notifies the receiving country and any transit countries. When the receiving country consents in writing to receive the CRTs, EPA forwards an Acknowledgement of Consent (AOC) to the exporter. The exporter may not ship the CRTs until he receives the AOC. Under these rules, exporters are not required to tell the EPA how much was actually exported in a given year.

The new rules proposed would require annual reports from all parties defined as exporters. These reports must provide basic information abot the business and the total quantities actually shipped for recycling, the frequency of shipment and the ultimate destination of the exported materials. This, the EPA says, will help determine that the CRTs are handled as commodities and not waste.

A new rule will also subject CRTs sent for reuse will be to similar notifications and requirements.


EPA takes aim at increasing national electronics recycling

The U.S. Environmental Protection is seeking to draw attention to the low rates of electronics recycling in American households.

Lisa Feldt, Deputy Assistant Administrator EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual Convention and Expo in Las Vegas last month that Americans should be recycling their old electronics at the same rate they are purchasing new ones.

“Consumer Electronics Association reports in 2009, Americans purchased more than 438 million new consumer electronics,” Feldt said. “The average household has more than 20 electronics, if you count TVs, computers, cell phones, mp3 players, printers, VCRs, DVDs, game systems, stereo systems.”

“All these electronics that are in the marketplace right now will have to be responsibly managed,” Feldt said. “The arsenal of electronics is nothing in comparison to what the federal government owns. The federal government is the largest consumer of IT products in the world. All together, the federal government spent $80 billion in electronic goods and services in 2010 alone.”

Feldt said that 2.73 million tons of electronics were discarded in 2009. And, only 25 percent of that is recycled, while the rest is in landfills.

She said the EPA wants to increase that percentage.

“These percentages tell us there is more work to be done,” Feldt said. “All used electronics in the U.S. are to be responsibly managed. The EPA and the federal government are defining responsibly managed as recyclers that have shown to an accredited third-party certification that they must meet or exceed the industries standards.”

The Federal Government should lead the way in the electronics recycling arena, she said, pointing to the new national framework for electronics stewardship introduced by the Obama Administration.

The framework seeks to:

– build incentives for electronics companies to produce greener electronics, using fewer toxic materials and making reuse easier;

– have the government lead by example by establishing an end-of-life management policy that ensures electronics used by the federal government are handled safely and securely by certified recyclers;

– improve used electronics management and handling practices in the U.S. by launching voluntary partnerships with the electronics industry and gathering and providing public access to information on quantities and movement of used electronics within the U.S.; and

– reduce potential harm from U.S. exports of electronic scrap and improve electronics recycling practices in developing nations. This means improving information on trade flows and handling of used electronics while providing technical assistance and partnerships with developing countries to better manage used electronics.

“Together federal agencies will ensure the sustainability of support and sustain American’s role in electronics,” Feldt said.

Feldt said at last count there were 215 recycling and refurbishing facilities across the U.S., adding the EPA is developing a Google Earth map where recyclers are located She said she expects the map to be on the agency’s website by summer of this year.