America needs a bunker to store its mountain of toxic TVs

If you’ve ever hauled one of the bulky monitors that were universal before the advent of flat panel displays, you’ll know that they are remarkably heavy. That’s because, behind the screen, there’s a big funnel of heavy leaded glass designed to be sturdy and to protect consumers from radiation leakage. The glass is recyclable, and for awhile, U.S. recyclers were able to ship it off for reuse in other countries.

But today, there are only a handful of places that will accept this leaded glass. There’s a lead smelter in Mississippi, and two more in Canada. And an Indian company, Videocon, is buying it too. But the pipeline of abandoned CRTs is spewing out far more leaded glass than the market can bear. “Nowadays, everything is flat panels. There’s just no use for the glass,” says Earl Campbell, owner of E-Waste Harvesters in Phoenix. “What you’re left with is this glass that you literally have to pay to get rid of.”

Ten years ago, Videocon was paying recyclers between $100 and $200 a ton for their leaded glass, says Jeff Hunts, a manager with CalRecycle. Today, recyclers have to pay Videocon $100 to $200 per ton just to take the glass away.