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6.1 Million Old TVs and Monitors Stockpiled in California

Sacramento, CA - Californians are storing more than 6 million old televisions and computer monitors in their homes. According to a recent study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, waste electronic products (E-waste) containing picture tubes— cathode ray tubes, or CRTs— are being stockpiled in increasing numbers.

The study was to provide current data on selected E-waste volume, diversion cost estimates, and processing capacity for the year 2006. The study revealed that approximately 2.9 million TVs (74,000 tons) and 3.2 million computer monitors (48,000 tons) are stockpiled in California households. While CRT-containing products are safe as long as they are intact, they are banned from disposal in state landfills and must be recycled.

"E-waste has become an issue of national concern, as lead-containing CRTs enter the solid waste stream where they threaten public health and the environment," said board member Michael Paparian.

Cathode ray tubes found in computer monitors and television sets contain 20 percent lead oxide by weight, averaging five to eight pounds of lead per unit. Repair, recycling or disposal businesses that handle CRT-containing products must adhere to state regulations for the handling of these hazardous materials.

Because CRTs exceed both state and federal standards for hazardous wastes, they are banned from disposal in municipal solid waste landfills in California. In August 2001, Cal/EPA's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) adopted emergency regulations reducing some hazardous waste requirements to make it easier to collect, store and recycle CRTs.

The study surveyed residents to determine the volume of materials they were storing, while processors were asked about processing capacity and diversion cost estimates within California.

Primary processors who refurbish and repair electronic products and secondary processors who dismantle them for the recycling value of their components predict a lower than expected volume of CRT processing in 2006. This is due primarily to the already slim profitability of recycling TVs, and increasing handling and transportation costs.

The study anticipates a gap between the current processing capacity (both repair and recycling) and the projected volume of diverted CRTs in 2006. This capacity shortfall reflects a difference of thousands of tons of E-waste and millions of dollars in additional disposal costs to process that waste.

The study examined the current E-waste reuse and recycling infrastructure in California, and projected future diversion based on historical trends. It did not look at the costs or infrastructure needs for processing the estimated six million-plus CRTs in storage or the impact of DTSC's recent clarification of the CRT landfill ban.

In anticipation of continued increases in CRTs, Cal/EPA, through the waste board and DTSC, is participating in a national dialog on product stewardship. The dialog includes other states, manufacturers, recyclers and environmental groups. In addition, the waste board is working to develop environmentally preferable product guidelines for electronic equipment. Designing for the environment is a common sense approach to the management of hazardous E-waste.

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