Larry King, legislative analyst with Sims Recycling Solutions, recently attended two meetings hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to talk with stakeholders about issues surrounding the management of unwanted cathode ray tube (CRT) devices. The first meeting, held in September in Washington was invitation only. The second was an open meeting held at the 2014 E-Scrap Conference in Orlando, Fla. The goals of the Washington meeting were to:
- Create a shared understanding of the state of the industry in regard to handling and processing CRTs.
- Determine where to go from here.
- Focus on exactly what needs to be done.
- Clarify next steps.
A number of manufacturers attended the Washington meeting along with select electronics recyclers, downstream processors, retailers, non-governmental organizations, trade organizations, standard bodies and local government representatives.
As one can imagine with such a diverse group of attendees the conversations were wide-ranging. Recyclers who focus on the reuse of unwanted devices advocated for more reuse opportunities. Downstream processors urged the EPA to approve their unique processes (i.e. alternate daily cover) or give exemptions to the EPA regulation to help with their processes (specifically the requirement that 75 percent of CRTs accumulated be recycled within a 12-month period). Underlying most of the conversations were the economic support, or the perceived lack of support, from the manufacturers of CRT devices.
Sims has been actively working with the EPA on recycling issues for years, and has been discussing the CRT issue long before it became such a popular national discussion. The EPA recently published an affirmative response to a request from Sims to use tile manufacturing as an approved form of recycling CRT glass. This EPA approval helps with the disposal of CRT’s as it opens up this outlet to all U.S. recyclers and adds another option for the recycling of CRT glass.
One of the newer potential long-term CRT management solutions discussed at the meeting, glass furnaces slated to open in New York and Ohio in the next year, was also a focus of conversation. A primary challenge that some stakeholders and the EPA are facing with the new glass furnaces is that it requires 10 years’ worth of CRT feedstock to be on-site before the furnace is turned on. This is contrary to the EPA’s requirement that 75 percent of CRT material on-site be recycled within one year. However, had this requirement been enforced perhaps some of the abandoned stockpiles discovered throughout the country in 2014 would not have been as large. Unfortunately, these new furnaces may not be built without the exemption. Many alternatives to enable the exemption were discussed including requiring a larger closure bond should an exemption be granted. Clearly, the issue is not an easy one to resolve.
After hours of discussion a number of possible actions were put forth and the attendees voted on what they wanted the EPA to focus on. The vote showed overwhelming numbers that proved the group present wanted the EPA to enforce their own CRT regulations more vigorously. There was a perception among many that some of the more highly publicized recent stockpile finds could have been prevented or at least reduced in scope had there been more enforcement.
At the second EPA meeting in Orlando, Fla. similar discussions to those at the Washington meeting were had and a vote was held with this new group of stakeholders to learn what they wanted to see the EPA focus on. Again, the stakeholders wanted to see the EPA increase enforcement of their existing regulations. There is a fine line that the EPA must walk on to encourage new technology that can address the CRT issue while at the same time making sure non-legitimate accumulation is not allowed.
The action item with the second-highest number of votes involved identifying available recycling or recovery options for CRTs and their associated capacities and costs. It will be interesting to see how the EPA moves forward with the information collected to address stakeholder concerns and interests in 2015.
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