On March 20, 2001, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) responded to an inquiry from the Materials for the Future Foundation (MFF) regarding the regulations pertaining to the management of cathode ray tubes (CRT). MFF had compiled a list of questions posed by participants at a workshop on e-waste management held in December 2000. This response effectively bans the disposal of CRTs in California's municipal landfills, which according to DTSC has always been the case.

An overview and summary of the response letter follows:

Overview of Issue

Computer monitors and televisions contain picture tubes that convert an electronic signal into a visual image. Picture tubes are also referred to as cathode ray tubes (CRT). Each CRT contains approximately 5 to 7 pounds of lead. Because they contain significant amounts of lead and other hazardous constituents, discarded monitors and televisions are subject to California's hazardous waste regulations. As you may know, lead is a toxic substance that can cause lead poisoning in individuals and can be especially harmful to young children. If lead-containing products are disposed of in the trash, the lead can potentially contaminate our water supplies.

DTSC Letter Summary Points

  • Nonfunctioning CRTs are hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of in municipal landfills.
  • Since California does not exempt CRTs from household and conditionally exempt small quantity generator (CESQG) sources, the disposal of these waste CRTs in municipal landfills has always been prohibited in California.
  • CRTs that are donated for continued use as monitors or televisions are not identified as hazardous waste.
  • Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and DTSC are currently considering a new regulatory structure for waste CRTs. At present DTSC is working with industry, CalRecycle, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), and other interested parties in evaluating several options for alternate management schemes that will encourage the collection and recycling of waste CRTs.
  • DTSC will continue focusing its enforcement resources on complaint response and on violations of the hazardous waste regulations that present immediate and significant risks to public health or the environment (e.g., the improper disposal of cathode ray tubes to municipal solid waste landfills or other unauthorized locations).