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Disposal of CRTs and Computer Monitors - A Guide for Businesses

 

In this world of rapidly changing technology, disposal of computer systems and monitors has created a growing waste stream. Older computers and televisions use a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) for viewing. The CRT contains lead to shield users from the radioactivity required to produce the image. Improper disposal of CRTs can place lead in the municipal solid waste stream that represents an environmental and health hazard. The following is a brief outline of proper management and disposal questions commonly asked regarding the disposal of computer systems and monitors. Please remember this fact sheet serves only as a guide and does not replace the requirements of Delaware's Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste.Computer monitors waiting to be recycled

Question: Is the disposal of used, intact computer monitors regulated in the State of Delaware, and does the State consider waste computer monitors hazardous waste?

Answer: The Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Section (SHWMS) adopted an exclusion from the definition of hazardous waste for used, intact CRTs sent for recycling [§261.4(b)(16)], provided certain conditions are met. Used, intact CRTs must be stored in a building or in a closed container in good condition under a roof and on an impervious base. The container shall be labeled "Used cathode ray tube(s) – contains leaded glass" or "Leaded glass from televisions or computers." It must also be labeled "Do not mix with other glass materials." A generator may accumulate used, intact CRTs up to one year from the date the CRT is first taken out of service and must be able to demonstrate the length of time the CRT is accumulated from the date it is first taken out of service.

Q: Is the disposal of used, broken computer monitors regulated in the State of Delaware, and does the State consider waste computer monitors hazardous waste?

A: The SHWMS adopted an exclusion from the definition of hazardous waste for used, broken CRTs sent for recycling [§261.4(b)(16)], provided certain conditions are met. Used, broken CRTs must be stored in a closed container in good condition under a roof and on an impervious base. The container shall be labeled “Used cathode ray tube(s) – contains leaded glass.” A generator may accumulate used, broken CRTs up to one year from the date the CRT is first taken out of service and must be able to demonstrate the length of time the CRT is accumulated from the date it is first taken out of service.

Q: Is the disposal of computer equipment, e.g., equipment containing printed circuit boards/motherboards regulated in the State of Delaware? Does the State consider these types of equipment hazardous waste?

A: Heavy metals are commonly used in electronic components such as printed circuit boards. As there are many types of circuit boards, it is difficult to use knowledge to categorize them as either hazardous or non-hazardous waste. Motherboards may also contain batteries and mercury switches, both components that routinely are hazardous waste. Printed circuit boards going for recycling are covered by the scrap metal exemption found in Delaware's Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste §261.4(a)(14). This exemption allows used, whole circuit boards being recycled to be shipped without becoming subject to DRGHW, including generator manifesting and export requirements. Motherboards containing mercury switches, mercury relays, nickel-cadmium batteries and lithium batteries are also covered under the scrap metal exemption, but only after all mercury devices and batteries are removed. Once removed, batteries and mercury switches can be managed under the Universal Waste Rule of DRGHW, Part 273.

The SHWMS cautions that many of the mercury switches, mercury relays, nickel-cadmium batteries and lithium batteries may be very small and may, on occasion, escape visual inspection. Therefore, it may be easier to direct the entire electronic component to a recycler, rather than first disassembling it.

Of course, the option remains to demonstrate through TCLP analysis that motherboards and circuit boards are non-hazardous. When so demonstrated, non-hazardous motherboards and circuit boards may be disposed in a permitted solid waste landfill. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority operates the state's solid waste landfills. To dispose of non-hazardous motherboards and circuit boards in an Authority landfill, the Authority must first grant written approval. The Authority may be contacted at 302.739.5361.

Q: Does Delaware allow conditionally exempt small quantity generators to dispose of hazardous waste computer systems and/or monitors in Delaware’s solid waste landfills?

A: No, Delaware's Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste prohibit disposal of any hazardous waste into Delaware’s solid waste landfills. Therefore, Delaware’s generators of hazardous waste may not use these landfills as a disposal option.

Q: I want to become a CRT collector or processor. What should I do?

A: Please contact the Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Section at 302.739.9403 to obtain information regarding the requirements for CRT collectors and/or CRT processors.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Section at 302-739-9403.

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