The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency convened a meeting of some 50 key electronics recycling parties last week near Washington, D.C. to receive advice and input. The meeting — the first “EPA Summit on Electronics” since 2005 — included representatives of original equipment manufacturers, states, nonprofit organizations, e-scrap reclaimers and trade groups.
The two-day session focused on two concerns. EPA sought input on CRT recycling management, including a review of how obsolete CRTs are being handled and how current and future problems can be addressed. Included at the meeting were executives from major CRT processors, including Closed Loop Refining and Recovery, Kuusakoski, Nulife Glass and Universal Recycling Technologies.
The stakeholder group assessed the current CRT recycling landscape, with attention focused on collection and handling practices by e-scrap firms and others. The attendees then analyzed the advantages and challenges associated with different CRT recycling options, including use of CRT glass in ceramics and concrete; the recovery of lead from CRTs in de-leading furnaces and lead and copper smelters; the chemical extraction of the lead through leaching; and CRT reuse. Discussion also centered on the use of CRT glass as alternative daily cover in landfills and the storage of CRTs in monofills.
The general consensus generated at the meeting is that obsolete CRTs are backing up in the current recovery system and additional abandoned stockpiles may occur. Some participants urged EPA to adopt a more forceful position in terms of its “speculative accumulation” rule and to increase its regulatory efforts with states to address any future problems.
The participants then generated a set of recommendations for future government-industry efforts in CRT and hazardous materials management, including the development of best practices guidance and new permitting standards for legitimate long-term CRT storage. The stakeholders at the meeting recommended that this work be expanded to include hazardous materials management issues arising from the processing of copiers and flat-panel displays.
The second focus of the meeting was sustainable electronics. Much of the discussion targeted two issues: design of electronics for reuse, repair and recycling, and better ways to determine what makes a firm a “good recycler.” In terms of the first concern, the group recommended a number of government and industry actions take place involving electronics designers, software producers and e-scrap reclaimers. For the second issue, the participants want to see a mass-balance tracking system for recyclable materials developed and sample model contract language generated for those wanting to assure environmentally sound recycling.
EPA is eager to get input from others on the Summit recommendations. Agency officials are inviting those interested in CRT management to an open meeting on Oct. 23 in Orlando from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. at a session immediately following the E-Scrap 2014 conference. This will be followed by a sustainable electronics open meeting at the hotel from 3:00 to 4:30 PM. To sign up for these free sessions, here.