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 the 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 the hazardous material content of new electronic equipment made by European manufacturers.

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.

  • Regulation of transboundary movement of hazardous and other wastes which includes a “Prior Informed Consent” procedure.
  • The 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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Bird and Bird Habitat Conservation Legislation

Great Blue Heron with Fish - Photo: Frank Miles, USFWSUntil the late 19th century, there was little or perhaps no legal protection in the United States for birds or their habitats. For instance, birds were hunted and killed by the millions so their feathers could be used as hat decorations and fashion accessories.

Throughout history humans have included birds in spiritual and cultural expression. Birds are admired for their beauty and ability to fly. They provide food. Birds are essential to keeping insect pests in check in forests, on farms, and in backyards. Birds are important indicators of ecosystem health. Birds are residents of planet earth just like us.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
— John Muir

Fortunately, birds had and continue to have many advocates who have pursued and attained legal protection for birds and their habitats.

Bird and Bird Habitat Protection and Conservation Legislation

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service LogoThe U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Congressional and Legislative Affairs website maintains a list of current laws, treaties, interstate compacts, and other agreements.

Listed below are a few bird related legislation items and historical highlights.

1885: Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy is established within the USDA and studies the role of birds in controlling agricultural pests. It is later renamed Bureau of Biological Survey.

1900: Lacey Act is the first federal law to protect game animals and wild birds by prohibiting interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife.

Red-winged Blackbirds in Flight - Photo: Mike Guyant, USFWS1903: Florida’s Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge becomes the first federal bird reservation.

1913: Weeks-McLean Law is the first law to regulate hunting of migratory birds and prohibits importing wild bird feathers.

1918: Migratory Bird Treaty Act provides protection for migratory birds, their eggs, nests, and feathers. It replaces the Weeks-McLean Law and implements treaties with Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the Soviet Union.

1929: Migratory Bird Conservation Act creates the U.S. Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to oversee acquisition of refuge lands and states that refuges are to be managed as sanctuaries for migratory birds.

1934: Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act (also known as the Duck Stamp Act) requires waterfowl hunters to purchase a stamp and revenue generated is used to protect waterfowl habitat.

Red-tailed Hawk - Photo: Mark Bohn, USFWS1940: Fish and Wildlife Service is created under the Department of the Interior by combining the Bureaus of Biological Survey and Fisheries. It is later renamed the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

1966: National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act formally establishes the National Wildlife Refuge System.

1971: Ramsar Wetlands Convention is adopted to encourage preservation of wetlands of international importance.

1973: Endangered Species Act expands to include endangered or threatened species habitat protection. Endangered Species Day is May 17th.

1975: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty is entered into force to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade.

Blue Jay - Photo: Frank Miles, USFWS1989: North American Wetlands Conservation Act is enacted to encourage public-private partnerships to conserve migratory bird habitat, and establishes a council and grant fund.

1992: Wild Bird Conservation Act is enacted to ensure exotic bird species are not harmed by international trade and encourages wild bird conservation programs in countries of origin.

2000: Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act is enacted to promote bird habitat conservation in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Note about Photos: The bird photos above were taken by members of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Click on a photo to view the original photo on flickr.


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