Computer monitors and TV screens are banned from Massachusetts waste disposal facilities.
CRTs and other obsolete electronics account for a significant and rapidly increasing share of the solid waste generated in Massachusetts. The volume of this waste is an estimated 300,000 tons per year and rising due to the emergence of flat panel screens, high definition television (HDTV) and other video technologies.
Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from television and computer monitors were prohibited from all Massachusetts solid waste disposal facilities effective April 1, 2000. Like the waste bans already established for other bulky items (white goods, tires, auto batteries), landfill, combustion facility, and transfer station operators must check every incoming load of solid waste to identify and remove banned materials.
Among the reasons MassDEP took this regulatory action:
- Continued disposal in landfills of bulky electronic components will unnecessarily accelerate the pace at which the state's few remaining landfills reach their capacity.
- Combustion of these items carries a potential public health risk. CRTs contain lead, which can contaminate incinerator ash and prevent its beneficial reuse in asphalt and other products.
- To promote the recycling and reuse of lead, and leaded glass contained in the CRT, as well as the precious metals found in printed circuit boards, power supplies, and the like.
- Recycling precious metals from electronics reduces the need for strip mining and acid mining.
A recycling market is necessary for a waste ban to be effective. A number of Massachusetts electronics recycling companies was adequately serving the state's commercial generators of CRT waste even before the disposal ban was implemented. Since then, with the ban ensuring a consistent supply of material and MassDEP providing strategic targeted startup grants and loans to electronics recyclers, Massachusetts has a fully developed processing infrastructure for residential CRTs today.
Initially, CRT recycling was very expensive for municipalities, but costs have fallen dramatically as demand for old units has risen. MassDEP also provided grants between 1999 and 2002 to help more than 200 towns and cities establish CRT collection programs. Today, most residentially generated CRTs are collected at municipal transfer stations or special collection events. In larger cities, CRTs are collected curbside. Many manufacturers and retailers have introduced CRT take-back and recycling programs, and a number of charities also accept donations of unwanted CRTs.