Handling of Electronic Waste
Electronic waste has been growing because electronic equipment has become easier and cheaper to make, lowering the price for it. In turn, electronic equipment (especially computers) has become more prevalent. Unfortunately, electronics can include some problematic materials, such as lead in the circuitry and mercury in the bulbs. Because electronic technology is increasing at such a rapid pace, old electronics become obsolete very quickly and must be disposed of. This leaves many questions about how to recycle and dispose of electronics. Thankfully, there are many rules and regulations about this topic to help guide all generators of electronic waste (also known as e-waste).
1. Before disposing of e-waste, you must determine whether the electronics you want to dispose of are considered to be hazardous waste.
- If the waste is included on a list of hazardous waste, it is hazardous.
- There are four characteristics that hazardous wastes are known to have. These are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and/or toxic. If your waste displays one or more of these characteristics, it is likely hazardous.
- The EPA requires use of the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) to decide whether waste is toxic. In the past, electronic equipment has been tested by the EPA and generally has been considered to be hazardous waste. Because of this, most businesses manage their electronics as hazardous waste, assuming the materials inside the electronics would qualify.
2. If the materials you are disposing of prove to be hazardous, make sure you abide by all hazardous waste disposal rules and regulations.
- The regulations are different based on the volume of hazardous waste that your business typically disposes of. There are three classifications of hazardous waste generators.
- Your business is classified as a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG) if it generates less than a total of 220 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste per month, less than 2.2 pounds of acute hazardous waste per month, and never accumulates more than 2,200 pounds at any one time.
- Your business is classified as a Small Quantity Generator (SQG) if it generates between 220 and 2200 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste per month, less than 2.2 pounds of acute hazardous waste per month, and never accumulates more than 13,200 pounds of hazardous waste at any one time.
- Your business is classified as a Large Quantity Generator (LQG) if it generates over 2200 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste or 2.2 pounds or more of acute hazardous waste per month.
3. CESQG businesses can dispose of their e-wastes in a non-hazardous solid waste landfill, but it is recommended that the waste be recycled instead of disposed of
4. SQG and LQG businesses have to manage all e-wastes as hazardous waste unless it can be demonstrated that the waste is not, or does not contain, hazardous material. Alternatively, these businesses can elect to use the universal waste standards instead because it facilitates e-waste recycling.
5. Electronic equipment with value being sold or donated for reuse or refurbishment for reuse is not considered a waste and is not subject to waste regulation. To prove the donated/sold equipment is not considered waste, save receipts that show the item(s) sold or donated and the date it occurred.
Consider the recycling of any electronics before you purchase them.
Also think about the electronics that will be replaced by your
new purchase and how you will recycle those as well. Some
manufacturers have takeback programs for products they sell so
you won’t even have to worry about how to dispose of your
product at the end of its useful life.
7. Search for e-waste recyclers in your area and ask about any further local requirements.
8. Before deciding on your recycler, make sure their waste management policies are sound because it’s possible that you can be liable for their mismanagement of your waste.
- Ask about what ultimately happens to managed materials and where they end up. Also ask about their data destruction policies.
- Ask about any certifications the company may have
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