Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Nobody wants cathode-ray television sets, not even e-waste recyclers

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47963 full

More flat panel televisions in California homes mean more older tube televisions stacking up in warehouses.  That electronic waste has nowhere to go. But there’s a new effort to unclog the old TV pipeline.

Older televisions have cathode ray tubes. That’s why they were big and boxy and heavy. The cathode ray rubes in older TVs accounted for 100 million pounds in the waste stream last year. Those glass tubes contain lead and other hazardous materials.

Firms that recycle electronic waste try to find markets for the materials as they dismantle equipment. But as flat-screen TVs become ever cheaper, the demand for recycling that old glass has tanked. So TVs are stacking up in warehouses, where hazardous material could harm recyclers and spread into the environment by accident.

E-waste firms want greater flexibility in the way they handle of old televisions – and the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control agrees. It’s proposed an emergency regulation that would let recyclers put non-toxic panel glass into landfills and glass that contains lead into hazardous waste facilities.

The new regulations could take effect next month. Before then, the Toxic Substances Control will take public comments for a few days come October.

My colleague John Rabe pays a lot of attention to the vast graveyard of television sets. Check out this slideshow of his work:

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