It took years of investigation to close this case, but certainly positive news on the electronics recycling front.
Kudos to California. Hopefully other states are taking note.
Just last month, Videocon, the last cathode ray tube (CRT) manufacturer using old CRT glass to make new TVs and computer monitors, said they’d continue consuming old CRTs for the next handful of years. Skeptics wondered how long this last bastion for the heavy, outdated technology would actually last with superior flat-panel technology having dominated the market for years.
On November 28th, Videocon representatives announced that they’ll likely be making new CRT products for only one more year. As recently as 2012, Videocon was shipping 9 million CRTs per year, down from 15 million in 2010.
Responsible electronics recyclers in the US have relied heavily on Videocon as a ‘pure’ recovery option, making new products from old. The pending loss of Videocon as a downstream for US recyclers is a wake up call for all:
- Organizations with old CRT products must assume the true cost of responsibly recycling CRTs make informed decisions when recycling CRTs.
- Recyclers must find new markets with a limited number of recycling options available.
- Federal and state governments must enforce the CRT Rule and provide aggressive incentives for development of alternative recovery technologies.
Two EPA sessions have been tacked on to the end of e-Scrap 2014 on Thursday, October 23rd including:
- CRT Management – 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.
- Sustainable Electronics Management – 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
These meetings are opportunities for e-recyclers to weigh in on what the EPA should be doing to “advance domestic end-of life recycling”. The last time the EPA hosted similar meetings was in 2005, resulting in the EPA’s commitment to launch development of R2, the first certification program for e-recyclers.
The sessions will be a continuation of dialog begun last week at the USEPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Forum held in Arlington. The invite-only meeting included about 35 stakeholders including e-recyclers, NGOs, OEMs, retailers and state representatives.
With surprisingly little debate, the group agreed on priority areas that the EPA should focus on, including addressing CRT stockpiling with more enforcement and implementation of a tracking system to monitor mass balance at e-recycling facilities and receipt of hazardous materials at downstream facilities.
The EPA has done very little to advertise the sessions, which were added after the early registration deadline and when many people have already secured their travel plans. A vocal turn out is essential toward ensuring that the talk turns to action.
Registration is free and can be completed on the e-Scrap 2014 website.
In last week’s news: “Major CRT Tonnages Left in Creative Recycling’s Wake”, Creative’s receiver, Robert Swett states that they’ve applied for extensions to the speculative accumulation requirement to get out of trouble for having 30 million pounds stored at ‘various locations in 6 states’.
Swett says, “This will alleviate CRS’ efforts towards glass recycling, allowing it to focus cash on other areas within the company that are more immediate.”
Regulators say they don’t have the resources to effectively enforce the Rule. If they were handing out fines for violations rather than gifts, they’d have the funds for proper enforcement.
Ramifications for violating the CRT Rule = 0
If you are you an electronics recycler operating in the US or use a US recycler to manage your e-waste, enforcement of the CRT Rule matters to you.
Yesterday, TransparentPlanet participated in a call arranged by the USEPA in response to its April, 2014 petition signed by over 240 representatives of the US e-recycling industry urging USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to enforce the CRT Rule.
In December 2012, TransparentPlanet released the US CRT Glass Management Report: A bellwether for sustainability of electronics recycling in the US. At that time, it was estimated that 660 million pounds of CRT glass were stockpiled at locations across the US. Over the past few months alone, reports reveal that number has been far exceeded and continues to worsen. This is hazardous CRT glass that customers, states and OEMs have paid to have properly recycled and is supposed to be regulated under federal law.
Monday’s discussion focused on enforcement of the ‘speculative accumulation’ requirement of the CRT Rule, which states that 75% of the CRT glass that a recycler accumulates in a calendar year must be recycled and not stored. EPA officials explained that in most cases, enforcement authority is a state responsibility. The TransparentPlanet group pointed out that state enforcement officials have not been trained on how to inspect an electronics recycling facility and that the EPA needed to provide leadership. EPA officials referred to a simple brochure available on their website, suggesting that inspectors can refer to that for guidance. They also pointed to a series of upcoming stakeholder meetings where CRT issues will be “discussed”.
It is time to stop talking and take action.
Stockpiling CRT glass is against the law. By enacting the CRT Rule, the EPA removed CRTs from hazardous waste regulations and created a new ‘regulation’ that, without enforcement, is nothing more than a loophole.
Stockpiling is harming an industry that just began to improve its image with new certification programs that have now been seriously compromised. It’s putting customers at great risk of paying for recycling not once, but many times over when clean up costs come home to roost.
It’s time to turn up the volume. Whether you are a responsible recycler suffering the consequences of disingenuous competitors or a customer facing unavoidable risk, the message to the EPA is simple and the necessary action is very clear: Enforce the CRT Rule.
If you are aware of illegal e-recycling practices, you may e-mail information to USEPA Enforcement Director Mr. KC Schefski at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to remain anonymous to the EPA, TransparentPlanet will send the information on your behalf: info@TransparentPlanetLLC.com.