July 14, 2014

EPA Clarifies Scope of CRT Glass Recycling Exclusion

To encourage the recycling of cathode ray tubes (CRTs), EPA issued the CRT rule on July 28, 2006. [71 FR 42928] Under the rule, CRTs are not solid waste when recycled, provided certain conditions are met. [§261.4(a)(22)] The agency crafted this exclusion to ease the regulatory burden that would otherwise have been imposed during waste CRT management.

When EPA issued the CRT rule, the agency added an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for processed CRT glass sent to CRT manufacturers or lead smelters. [§261.39(c)] While the recycling of CRT glass has been successful, questions have come up as to the options for the management of the glass. For example, emerging technologies have made it possible for CRT recyclers to process CRT glass into lead and silica sand. This has the potential to expand CRT glass recycling because there is a greater market for these individual components compared to the market for leaded CRT glass. EPA was recently asked if the §261.39(c) exclusion would apply if CRT glass is processed into the primary components of lead and silica sand, which are then sold for a variety of commercial uses.

The agency responded that while it supports the development of technologies that can recycle CRT glass in an environmentally protective fashion, the exclusion “only applies to processed CRT glass sent for recycling to a CRT glass manufacturer or a lead smelter.” [RO 14839] This is not to say that CRT glass cannot be recycled using the new technologies—only that the exclusion would not apply, and the CRT glass would be a solid and potentially hazardous waste during these activities.

Furthermore, the agency went on to say that if the products of the recycling activity were to be used in a manner constituting disposal (e.g., using the sand for concrete/construction or golf course sand traps), the provisions of Part 266, Subpart C would apply. [§261.39(d)] These provisions require the product to meet land disposal restrictions treatment standards in Part 268, Subpart D prior to land placement.

Lastly, EPA took the opportunity to restate its long-standing policy that the recycling activity must be legitimate for any recycling exclusion to apply. If a facility is engaged in sham recycling, this, by definition, is not real recycling and the material is being discarded. [RO 14839]

Please bear in mind that the 2006 CRT rule made the RCRA regulations less stringent than the pre-existing program. Thus, a facility in an authorized state cannot use the exclusion unless that state has adopted the rule. Currently, just over half of all states have adopted the 2006 CRT rule.

 


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.