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Environmental Protection & Preservation

EPA Rule Covers CRT Recycling In and Out of the U.S.

Recycled televisions and computer monitors, known as CRTs, often end up in another country as unusable and broken.

That can be a problem because Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to make sure that the destination-country is aware that the recycled materials are on their way.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Cathode Ray Tube Rule in the U.S., which is intended to encourage recycling and reuse of CRTs and CRT glass. The rule requires that recyclers notify EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. when they plan to export used and broken CRTs. EPA will then notify the receiving country of the shipment. However, if the CRTs are intact, instead of broken, and destined for reuse, the recycler must send a one-time notification to EPA before exportation. In this case, there is no requirement to notify the receiving country.

The exporter must keep copies of the normal business records of these exports for three years. Persons and businesses that fail to meet one or more of the conditions of the CRT Rule may be subject to enforcement action under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

But the CRT Rule also covers recycling in the U.S. In many cases the recycler will disassemble the CRTs for its glass, lead or plastic components. The rule exempts CRTs from all hazardous waste requirements, if the recycler complies with certain conditions for packaging, labeling and storage. So, in general, the CRT Rule makes it easier to recycle CRTs than if the CRTs had to be handled as hazardous waste.

The rule does not affect households or non-residential generators of less than 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) of hazardous waste in a calendar month.

By implementing the CRT Rule, EPA has encouraged the recycling of used CRTs and CRT glass, which is more beneficial to the environment than disposal. Through the CRT Rule, EPA is streamlining hazardous waste management requirements for CRT tubes and glass.

The proper recycling of CRTs preserves landfill space, saves energy and conserves resources, allows the recovered glass to be reused in other ways, and reduces the amount of leaded glass in landfills. The lower energy consumption achieved through CRT recycling also lowers the emission of GreenHouse Gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming.

Televisions and computer monitors represent the bulk of the universe of CRTs. While the precise number of CRTs is not known, there are millions of CRTs entering the waste stream each year. In 2005, approximately 80 to 85 percent of discarded CRTs ended up in landfills. Because CRTs contain on average four pounds of lead, in addition to other toxic materials such as brominated flame retardants, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, proper recycling of CRTs avoids the possible release of these toxics into the environment.

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