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Hazardous TV waste export storm

Hazardous waste from old TVs is being sent abroad for uses banned in the UK, according to senior industry figures.

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The Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) Regulations enforce separation of lead from glass in UK recycling.

But Justin Greenaway, contracts manager at electronics reprocessor Sweeep Kuusakoski, claimed that some UK recyclers were exporting cathode ray tube glass with 20% lead content for use in aggregate and filling mine shafts.

While this export is legal, Greenaway branded it “sham recycling”.

“It simply would not be allowed in the UK due to the risk to the environment and human health, which has been assessed and confirmed as unacceptable by the Environment Agency,” he told MRW.

“The EA has set out strong environmental controls for CRT glass recycling in the UK and they make it fundamentally clear that leaded glass cannot go into an aggregate recycling route and be considered BATRRT.”

The waste sector faced unprecedented levels of CRT disposal as the digital switchover reached London and people replaced old TVs ahead of the Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Jubilee celebrations.

Manufacturer-funded producer responsibility compliance schemes employ Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities to recycle CRT screen waste to BATRRT standard.

But one compliance scheme manager told MRW it was difficult to find reliable information on the recycling route for some CRT glass.

“There are a number of AATFs in the UK which we simply would not use due to questionable glass downstream data,” he said. “It is simply not acceptable to claim commercial confidence and not supply recycling routes for such a hazardous waste.”

Concerns have also been raised within the industry that some AATF recyclers are building up large stockpiles of CRT hazardous waste glass they have been unable to find cost-effective recycling routes for after receiving gate fees from compliance schemes.

Ray Georgeson, chief executive of reprocessor body the Resource Association, said: “Full transparency of the end destinations of recovered materials is vital to maintain confidence in recycling.”

The Environment Agency was unavailable for comment as MRW went to press.

Readers' comments (2)

  • CRT Recycling got squeezed out of business by the EA in an effort to improve UK recycling standards and yet it seems you can do what you want as long as you can get the glass out of the country. The EA are simply putting UK businesses at a disadvantage by inept regulation. Is consistency too much to ask from a government regulator? Compliance schemes should also be regulating this activity better as BATRRT quality recycling is not optional for UK WEEE recycling. Is it acceptable for our waste to negatively affect other people’s countries? If UK PLC says lead glass into aggregate is not best practise then how can we allow our glass to be blended away in more carefree countries?

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  • How ridiculous that we cannot look after our waste correctly in the UK? Where is the EA?

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