Legislative Recycling Mandates
Federal Legislative Mandates for Electronics Recovery: At present, there is no Federal mandate to recycle e-waste. There have been numerous attempts to develop a Federal law. However, to date, there is no consensus on a Federal approach.
State Mandatory Electronics Recovery Programs: Many states have instituted mandatory electronics recovery programs. The following website provides regularly updated information on state e-waste legislation:
Regulations Governing Management of Used Electronics
Some electronics (such as color CRT computer monitors, color CRT TV tubes, and smaller items such as cell phones and other hand-helds) test hazardous under Federal law. If so, they are subject to special handling requirements under Federal law, subject to certain exemptions. It is the generators' responsibility to determine if their materials are hazardous waste. For more information on hazardous waste identification, see the Waste Determination webpage.
EPA encourages reuse and recycling of used electronics, including those that test hazardous. To facilitate more reuse and recycling of these products, EPA has less stringent management requirements for products bound for reuse and recycling. Specifics follow:
Resale or Donation: Computer monitors and televisions sent for continued use (ie. resale or donation) are not considered hazardous wastes.
Federal Regulatory Requirements for Recycling of CRTs: EPA encourages recycling of CRTs. Thus, CRTs sent for recycling are subject to streamlined handling requirements. For more information on the CRT Rule, including export requirements and frequent questions please see Cathode Ray Tubes Final Rule.
Federal Regulatory Requirements for Circuit Boards within the United States: Circuit Boards are subject to a special exemption from Federal hazardous waste rules.
- Whole unused circuit boards are considered unused commercial chemical products, which are unregulated.
- Whole used circuit boards meet the definition of spent materials but also meet the definition of scrap metal. Therefore, whole used circuit boards that are recycled are exempt from the hazardous waste regulations.
- Shredded circuit boards are excluded from the definition of solid waste if they are containerized (ie., fiberpaks) prior to recovery. These shredded circuit boards cannot contain mercury switches, mercury relays, nickel-cadmium batteries, or lithium batteries. If these materials are not treated this way, then they are considered hazardous waste and must be treated as such.
Note: This discussion summarizes relevant federal regulatory requirements. For the complete federal hazardous waste requirements for generators, consult 40 CFR Parts 260-262.
Federal Regulatory Requirements for Disposal CRTs and Other Electronics that Test Hazardous
- Large Quantities Sent for Disposal: Wastes from facilities that generate over 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) per month of hazardous waste are regulated under Federal law when disposed. CRTs from such facilities sent for disposal (as opposed to reuse, refurbishment or recycling) must be manifested and sent as hazardous waste to a permitted hazardous waste landfill.
- Small Quantities Exempt: Businesses and other organizations that send for disposal (as opposed to reuse, refurbishment or recycling) less than 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) per month of hazardous waste are not required to handle this material as hazardous waste. If a small-quantity generator wishes to dispose of a small quantity of CRTs or other used electronics that test hazardous under Federal law, these materials can go to any disposal facility authorized to receive solid waste (eg. a municipal landfill), unless state law requires more stringent management (eg. CA).
- Household Exemption for Electronics Sent to Disposal: Used computer monitors or televisions generated by households are not considered hazardous waste and are not regulated under Federal regulations. State laws may be more stringent as reqards electronics from households (eg. CA).
State Regulatory Requirements for Disposal of Electronics that Test Hazardous
State regulatory requirements for e-waste can be more stringent than the Federal requirements, and vary from state to state. California considers CRTs to be spent materials and regulates all CRT as hazardous waste, ie. they are banned from landfills. Other states, such as Massachusetts and Florida, have taken steps to streamline hazardous waste regulations for CRTs, reducing special handling requirements if these products are directed to recycling. Many states are developing Universal Waste exemptions for CRT which also streamline management of CRTs bound for recycling. If you are planning on disposing used CRTs (or other electronics that test hazardous under state or Federal law), check relevant state requirements, which might be different from federal regulatory requirements.