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Electronic Waste Recycling Information

What items are considered to be "electronics?"

Popular types of electronics are: televisions and computer monitors, laptops, computers and computer peripherals (peripherals are anything you plug into your computer for input, output, or storage, keyboard, mouse, printer, external hard drives, etc.), televisions, audio and stereo equipment, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras, telephones, fax and copying machines, cellphones, wireless devices, video game consoles and more. .

Why prevent electronics from entering the landfill?

Most electronics are made up of chemicals that could potentially be harmful to the environment if disposed of incorrectly. Metals such as lead, silver, barium, cadmium, and mercury could be included in these devices. With proper recycling, these metals could be disposed of safely and wouldn’t be able to harm the environment.

The average useful life of a computer is approximately 3 years and continues to decline.  Only a small of computers are being recycled, though the production of computers is rising.

Electronics can contain valuable natural resources, such as precious metals, plastic and glass. Discarded electronics means discarded resources that could be reused.  Conserving these resources also means preventing additional pollution and wasted energy obtaining virgin material.

Many older electronic models, especially televisions and monitors, contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs), batteries, and mercury switches.  These elements contain mercury, lead, and other types of hazardous materials.  Recycling prevents the emission and exposure of these materials.

Companies may be qualified for a tax break if they donate computers to schools receiving special grants.

What are the regulations concerning electronics disposal for businesses?

The business generating the waste is the only one responsible for determining whether the waste would be considered hazardous waste under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The generator also has to make sure that the waste is managed and disposed of properly.

The EPA allows electronics that will be recycled to be managed under the Universal Waste regulations, which simplifies the management of these wastes.

The EPA must be notified if your business intends on exporting cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitors to make sure the company allows the shipments.

What are the regulations concerning recyclers, refurbishers or dismantlers?

Due to current regulations, electronics that will be reused, rebuilt, or remanufactured are not considered waste under the RCRA. If the units are demanufactured into individual components, the RCRA must evaluate any issues on a case-by-case basis. Individual components that are generated and disposed of require evaluation under TCLP criteria and should be managed according to that.

Solid Waste Management Regulations may also apply to the management of electronic wastes, but changes are expected for these regulations in the very near future.

What can I do to help minimize the electronics disposal problem?

Before deciding to dispose of your electronics determine if the product can be potentially upgraded for use in the future or donated to someone else who will be able to use it (try contacting charities, non-profits, governments, or schools)

If you do decide to dispose of electronics, determine if the product will be able to be recycled anywhere in your area and whether or not the product can be disposed of according to regulations in your area.

Why reuse or recycle outdated computer and electronic equipment?

Electronic devices make up approximately one percent of the annual 209,700,000 tons of solid waste generated in the United States. It is further estimated that the total volume of electronic equipment recycled in the U.S. was approximately 134,000 tons in 1998. Another 1.3 million units were "reused" by third parties.

Electronic waste can be reused or donated to not-for-profit organizations or demanufactured into usable components. Components such as cathode ray tubes, printed circuit boards, and silicon chips can be demanufactured into raw materials such as metals, plastics, and glass.



1.     After arriving at a recycling processor, electronics are weighed in bulk and then separated into types according to how they will be disassembled.

2.    Once the parts are disassembled, each component is evaluated for possible reuse or refurbishment.  Parts that are not repairable are sent for separate processing and recovery into raw material, like glass, plastic, and various metals.

3.      Parts that can be refurbished may be physically repaired.  Computers may require software installations or memory upgrades, and other electronic equipment may require small part replacements.

Computer Recycling

Unlike other recyclables, computers posed a particular challenge for recyclers, but the numerous parts of a computer provide numerous options for resale or reuse.

Circuit Boards:  Many hard drives and circuit boards remain intact within an older model computer and can be resold.

Small Plastic Components:  These materials are typically made from a durable type of polyethylene, which is easy to remove and process.  However, these parts can become easily contaminated and must be kept clean for resale.

Small Metal Parts:  Screws and clips can be magnetically separated from the computer and sold as scrap.

Monitors:  Monitors are separated from their plastic frames and metal supports.  If the monitor contains a CRT, it is removed and crushed, safely containing any hazardous mercury waste.  The glass and metal obtained is cleaned and sold.


Find a school, organization, or family to whom you can donate your old computer.  Extending the life of the computer avoids waste of any kind.  If donating, ensure that equipment is operational, and verify any software requirements of the receiving organization.

Consult your local recycling center or retailer for special collections, programs, or incentives for electronics. 

Be purposeful when making new electronics purchases. Look for electronics that are energy efficient, made with recycled content, use minimal packaging, and can be easily upgraded.

Considerations When Choosing to Dispose

1) Should you decide not to recycle, there are important considerations to make. Depending on what type of electronic(s) you have, you may have to pay special attention to regulations under the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act).

2) Those disposing of solid waste that contains such hazardous or toxic materials as lead or barium (among others) are required by the RCRA to test these components to prove them non toxic. If the electronics are not tested they must be assumed hazardous and may only be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. They may also be recycled.

4) Land fills are generally not the best method for ridding your office of its broken or out of date electronic equipment.  This is due to multiple reasons:

a) These items are extremely recyclable. There is really no need to dispose of them at all when they can we reused or recycled.


b) The toxic matter found in computers and other electronics pose a large threat to the environment when dumped or disposed of improperly.  For example, drinking water supplies can be negatively affected by hazardous material that is left in a landfill.



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