Electronic Waste Recycling

Jennifer Schultz 9/17/2018

Electronic Products

The use of electronic products has grown substantially in recent years, changing the ways in which we communicate, access information and entertain ourselves.

Americans now own approximately 24 electronic products per household, and annual electronics sales in the U.S. are greater than $206 billion. The rapid increase in consumer electronics purchases has created a growing stream of used devices in need of appropriate management.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 2.4 million tons of electronics were disposed of in 2009, an increase of more than 120 percent from 1999. Of this amount, only 25 percent were collected for recycling. The rest ended up in landfills and incinerators. This includes computers, televisions, stereos, printers, copiers and mobile devices.

Although used electronics make up a relatively small percentage of the overall waste stream, their disposal is a source of concern for several reasons. The production of electronic devices requires a significant amount of resources – metals, plastics and glass – many of which can be recovered through recycling. For example, the production of one desktop computer takes at least 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water. Cell phones are also resource-intensive, composed of precious metals such as silver, gold, palladium and copper. Recovering these and other materials through recycling uses a fraction of the energy needed to mine new metals.

In addition, the presence of hazardous materials such as lead, nickel and mercury in some electronics make safe disposal particularly important. These metals could pose risks to human health or the environment if improperly handled.

Consumers have many options to recycle or donate their used electronics:

  • A number of manufacturers and retailers now offer a return program or sponsor recycling events.
  • 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation establishing a statewide electronic waste, or e-waste, recycling program.
  • Legislation typically follows two basic models for e-waste disposal. Under the extended producer responsibility model, used in 24 states, the manufacturer takes responsibility by paying to collect and recycle the products covered under law, with the products covered varying widely from state to state.
  • Under the second type of program, known as the advanced recycling fee model, consumers pay retailers a $6 to $10 fee at the time of purchase which is deposited into a statewide recycling fund. California adopted this method in 2003—and was the first state to establish an e-waste recycling program.
  • In addition, Colorado enacted legislation in 2012 (SB 133) prohibting the disposal of electronic devices at solid waste landfills throughout the state. Counties that do not have at least two electronic recycling events per year or an ongoing electronic waste recycling program may vote to opt out of the ban. The law also requires state agencies to recycle electronic devices. 

States with Electronic Waste Recycling Programs

E-Waste states

The chart below contains statute citations and a link to each state program website.

State Statutes | Electronic Waste Recycling
State Statute Citation Year Enacted State Program Website
California

 

Cal. Public Resources Code §§42460 to 42486

2003

Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. §§22a-629 to 22a-640

2007

Connecticut's Electronics Recycling Law

Hawaii

Hawaii Rev. Stat. §§339d-2 to 339d-6

2008

Electronic Device and Television Recycling Law

Illinois

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 415, §§150/1 to 150/999

2008

Electronic Waste Recycling

Indiana

Ind. Code §§13-20.5-1-1 to 13-20.5-10-2

2009

Electronic Waste

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 38, §1610

2004

Electronics Recycling

Maryland

Md. Environment Code Ann. §§9-1727 to 9-1730

2005

e-Cycling in MD

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws §§324.17301 to 324.17333

2008

Electronic Waste Takeback Program

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. §§115a.1310 to 115a.1330

2007

Minnesota's Electronic Recycling Act

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§260.1050 to 260.1101

2008

Electronic Waste

New Jersey

N.J. Rev. Stat. §§13:1E-99.94 to 13:1E-99.114

2008

E-Cycle New Jersey

New York

N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law §§27-2601 to 27-2621

2010

E-Waste Recycling

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. §§130A-309.130 to 130A-309.141

2007

North Carolina Electronics Management Program

Oklahoma

Okla. Stat. tit. 27A, §§2-11-601 to 2-11-611

2008

E-Waste Information

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. §§459a.300 to 459a.365

2007

Electronics Waste

Pennsylvania

Pa. Cons. Stat. tit. 35, §§6031.101 to 6031.702

2010

Electronic Recycling Management Program

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws §§23-24.10-1 to 23-24.10-17

2008

Electronic Waste

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. §§48-60-05 to 48-60-150

2010

Electronics

Texas

Tex. Health and Safety Code Ann. §§361.951 to 361.966

2007

Electronics Recycling and Waste Reduction

Utah

Utah Code Ann. §§19-6-1201 to 19-6-1205

2011

None Found

Vermont

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, §§7551 to 7564

2010

Vermont e-Cycles

Virginia

Va. Code §§10.1-1425.27 to 10.1-1425.38

2008

Virginia's Computer Recovery and Recycling Act

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§70.95n.010 to 70.95n.902

2006

E-Cycle Washington

West Virginia

W.Va. Code §§22-15A-22 to 22-15A-28

2008

E-Waste West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. §287.17

2009

E-Cycle Wisconsin

 

Additional Resources