Computer monitors and TV screens are banned from Massachusetts waste disposal facilities.

Why did the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) take this step?
Is there a market for old televisions and monitors?
Is CRT recycling expensive?
How can I recycle an old CRT?

 

Why did the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) take this step?

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 have been prohibited from all Massachusetts solid waste disposal facilities since April 2000. As with the disposal bans for other bulky items (e.g. white goods, tires, auto batteries), the operators of landfills, combustion facilities and transfer stations need to check every incoming load of solid waste to identify and remove banned materials.

Among its reasons for banning CRTs from the state's solid waste management facilities, MassDEP noted:

  • Continued disposal in landfills of bulky electronic components would unnecessarily accelerate the pace at which the state's few remaining landfills reached their capacity.
  • Combustion of these items would carry a potential public health risk. CRTs contain lead, which can contaminate incinerator ash and prevent its beneficial reuse in asphalt and other products.
  • Promoting the recycling and reuse of lead, leaded glass contained from CRTs, and precious metals from printed circuit boards and power supplies benefits both the environment and the economy.
  • Recycling precious metals from electronics reduces the need for strip mining and acid mining.

Is there a market for old televisions and monitors?

For or a waste ban to be effective, there need to be markets for the recycled materials and an infrastructure for processing them. A number of Massachusetts electronics recycling companies were adequately serving the state's commercial generators of CRT waste even before the disposal ban was implemented. Today, with the ban ensuring a consistent supply of material and MassDEP having provided strategic targeted startup grants and loans to electronics recyclers, Massachusetts has a fully developed infrastructure for processing residential CRTs. There are still resale markets for old CRTs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, where their low cost makes them attractive. Those that cannot be sold are dismantled and processed for the scrap value of their glass, metal, precious metal and plastic components.

Is CRT recycling expensive?

Initially, CRT recycling was very expensive for municipalities, but costs fell dramatically as demand for old units rose. A previous MassDEP grant program also provided funding 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. 

How can I recycle an old CRT?

Most Massachusetts municipalities, as well as many electronics manufacturers and retailers, accept used CRTs for recycling. Some charge a nominal fee. To learn more, see: Recycling in My Community and Electronics Recycling .