California SB20 - Vocabulary Lesson and Slide Show

When a 5 year old computer monitor is turned in as "e-waste" in California, the collector gets paid to deliver it to the recycler.  Once the collector has been paid by the state SB20 fund, the recycler has to reimburse the collector the state collection fee if they choose to repair (or plug in and see if it still works) and resell the monitor.  If on the other hand, the recycler breaks the monitor into little pieces of glass and plastic and metals, the recycler gets a check from the state. 

Surprise, surprise, guess what the recyclers do? Old or new, working or repairable, smash smash, grind grind.   The result is a huge pile of CRT glass which recyclers in the state currently cannot find a good home for.

When they do move it, the CRT glass is probably sent to India or Malaysia, where there are three things - CRT furnaces (still melting glass and mined ore to make new CRTs), CRT assembly factories (which put the CRTs into housings and circuit boards and make monitors and TVs), and demand for new monitors.  Lots of demand.  People who earn $3000 per year (about 3 billion people) are increasing access to internet at 10 times the rate in the USA.  On those salaries, they need cheap and they want it to last a lot longer than LCDs do.

As for the recyclers, they don't get paid by the state until  they prove "cancellation" of the monitor.  Cancellation is not defined in the statute, the definition is left to the regulator agency, and the regulatory agency defines cancellation as breaking of the vacuum of the CRT gun.  In other words, ruin the monitor, change it from something Malaysia will pay $5 for into $1 worth of scrap.  Once the vacuum is broken, the thing is just leaded glass.

Cancellation was not defined in the Electronic Waste Recycling Act.  The concept of cancellation is referred to in the Act,  as amended, see 42476(e) & (F):"
"If the covered electronic waste is processed, the covered
electronic waste is processed in this state according to the
cancellation method authorized by the board."

So the Board wishes the CRT to be broken into pieces, shipped to Malaysia or India, where it is remelted, at great carbon expense, into a new CRT tube.  It is then assembled there into a new monitor.  But the factories which assemble those new monitors have to pay $85 for a minted new CRT tube.  They would rather buy, and refurbish, a used CRT from California, for $5.

Same country, same monitor factory.  But CA now gets $1 for scrap, and the monitor factory pays $85 for the new CRT.  Why can't California processors sell the still-useful CRTs, with 10 more years of life, for $5?  Because of the Board's definition of "cancellation".   Here is a slide show which shows how California can save a lot of money, and also save money to young med school students in India who can't afford a brand new monitor.  When I first presented this idea, in 2005, it would have saved the state about $1M per MONTH.  The demand is now down, but it could still save millions per year.

SB20 Recycling Proposal                                                            

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