E-Waste Laws and Regulations

The U.S. and other countries are tackling the growing volume of e-waste through laws, regulations, and treaties.

California E-Waste Laws and Regulations

That state of California has several laws related to collection, handling, recycling, and disposing of e-waste.

Universal Waste Rule

The Universal Waste Rule is intended to ensure certain hazardous wastes are managed safely and not disposed of in the trash. Universal wastes include TVs, computers, computer monitors, cell phones, VCRs, and portable DVD players, as well as batteries, electric lamps, and mercury containing equipment.

California Electronic Waste Recycling Act

The California Electronic Waste Recycling Act requires retailers to collect a recycling fee from the buyer at the time of purchase of a video display device containing a screen greater than 4 inches, measured diagonally, such as computer monitors, laptops, and TVs with CRT, LCD, or plasma displays. Fees are deposited in an account managed by the Board of Equalization and paid out to recyclers upon approval of a payment claim. The act also regulates exporting of CRT materials or electronic devices.

Cell Phone and Battery Take Back Laws

Cell phone and battery take back laws require retailers to take back cell phones and rechargeable batteries for reuse, recycling, or proper disposal.

State E-Waste Laws and Regulations

To date, 25 states have passed some type of e-waste related legislation. State laws vary and may include landfill or incineration bans, advanced recycling fees (consumers pay a recycling fee up front), and producer responsibility or take-back programs.

  • U.S. E-Waste Laws Map - Delta Institute2003: California
  • 2004: Maine
  • 2005: Maryland
  • 2006: Washington
  • 2007: Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas
  • 2008: Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia
  • 2009: Indiana, Wisconsin
  • 2010: New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont
  • 2011: Utah

U.S. Federal E-Waste Laws and Regulations

CRT Computer Monitor Thrown Away in Stream - Photo: EndlisnisAlthough the United States does not currently have any federal laws specific to e-waste, there are laws and regulations for handling and disposing of hazardous waste. Some electronics test “hazardous” under Federal law and are subject to special handling under Federal law such as CRT monitors, color CRT TV tubes, cell phones, and other hand-held devices.

Bill H.R.2284 “Responsible Electronics Recycling Act” was introduced during the 112th Congress in 2011 but not passed.

International E-Waste Laws and Treaties

European Union E-Waste Directives

The European Union adopted the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. These laws mandate recovery and recycling of e-waste and restrict hazardous material content of new electronic equipment made by European manufactures.

Basel Convention International Treaty

During the 1970s and 1980s, environmental regulations in industrialized countries were on the rise as were costs for disposing of hazardous waste. Some companies shipped their hazardous waste overseas where it was dumped, spilled, or improperly handled. This caused severe health problems and even deaths, poisoned the environment, and led to a public outcry to stop these practices.

Basel Convention LogoThe Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992. Main provisions of the convention include:

  • Regulation of transboundary movement of hazardous and other wastes which includes a “Prior Informed Consent” procedure.
  • Requirement that hazardous and other wastes be managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

The Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) was formed in 2008 to focus specifically on computer related e-waste.

The U.S. signed the Basel convention but never ratified it.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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