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EPA PROPOSES EASING BARRIERS TO ENCOURAGE RECYCLING OF COMPUTERS, TELEVISIONS AND MERCURY-CONTAINING EQUIPMENT

Release Date: 05/29/2002
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Environmental News

FOR RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2002

EPA PROPOSES EASING BARRIERS TO ENCOURAGE RECYCLING OF COMPUTERS, TELEVISIONS AND MERCURY-CONTAINING EQUIPMENT

David Deegan, 202-564-7839/deegan.dave@epa.gov


EPA has proposed changing its existing waste regulations for computers, televisions and mercury-containing equipment to discourage the flow of these materials to municipal landfills and incinerators, and to promote safe reuse and recycling of these products.

“By streamlining our waste regulations, we encourage more reuse and recycling, cut costs and reduce paperwork,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “At the same time we continue to protect public health and the environment by providing better methods for reusing, recycling and managing materials containing hazardous substances such as lead and mercury.”

Color computer monitors and televisions contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs), most of which contain lead to protect users from x-rays generated while the tube is in operation. A typical computer monitor may contain up to eight pounds of lead. EPA estimates that over 250 million computers in this country will be retired from use over the next five years. The EPA proposal would encourage more reuse and recycling of these computers.

For instance, if CRTs are being considered for possible reuse, the proposal clarifies that EPA considers them to be “products,” rather than “waste.” Therefore, they would not be regulated under the waste requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA is also proposing to lift the waste designation from glass removed from CRTs, as long as the glass is sent for recycling and managed in accordance with simplified storage, labeling and transportation requirements specified in the proposal. EPA believes that these proposed changes will encourage the recycling of these materials, while minimizing the possibility of releasing lead into the environment.

This proposal will also streamline regulations for mercury-containing equipment. Mercury is used in several types of instruments common to electric utilities, municipalities and households, such as switches, barometers, meters, temperature gauges, pressure gauges and sprinkler system contacts.

Under the proposal, mercury-containing equipment will be treated as a "universal waste," rather than being subject to the full hazardous waste regulations under RCRA. Universal wastes are usually items commonly thrown into the trash by households and small businesses, such as batteries, thermostats, lamps and pesticides. EPA issued the first universal waste rule in 1995 to streamline environmental regulations for wastes produced in relatively small quantities by large numbers of businesses. Handlers of universal wastes follow special standards designed to encourage centralized collection and recycling in order to keep these wastes out of landfills and incinerators.

The proposal will appear soon in the Federal Register. For further information call the RCRA Call Center at 1-800-424-9346 (from the Washington, D.C. area, call 703-412-9810), or go to: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/electron/crt.htm .

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