California Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation into law today that allows glass recyclers in California to recycle glass from old cathode ray tubes (CRT). CRTs represent an older design approach to computer and television monitors. Under existing laws, the glass tubes were not eligible to be fully recycled. Instead, the old glass tubes could be used to make new glass CRTs. They could also be smelted or committed to landfills.
The restrictions on CRT recycling were put into place largely because CRTs typically contain varying amounts of lead. Only one manufacturer in the world still produces CRTs, and it’s unclear how much longer that company, which is located in India, will continue to produce CRTs. The lack of a marketplace for old CRTs has led to the significant stockpiling of old CRTs, as well as direct disposal into landfills. Authorities in California estimate that the state’s waste haulers and recyclers currently have about 17 million pounds of CRT glass in storage.
Under the new legislation, the glass can be recycled into additional non-harmful uses, including glass tiles and radiation-shielding glass. CRT glass may only be recycled into applications where no known harm exists. The legislation also authorizes state agencies to approve new end-use products that meet the legislative intent, as well as to prohibit current and previously permitted uses for CRT glass that are later discovered to be harmful.
California’s goal in passing the glass recycling legislation is to open up new markets for stockpiled, recyclable glass that will reduce the need to create new materials, or extract new raw materials.
Glass is infinitely recyclable, but glass is typically sorted prior to recycling, based upon its previous use. Container glass can be remade into new containers. Tempered glass and heat strengthened glass is also recyclable, but cannot be combined with ordinary glass during recycling. Colored glass and “contaminated” glass – including glasses that contain lead, chromium and other heavy metals – are also technically recyclable, but because of their heavy metal content, they’re typically discarded.
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