Electronic Waste Recycling
Each year in California hundreds of thousands of computers, monitors, copiers, fax machines, printers, televisions, and other electronic items become “obsolete” in the eyes of consumers. Rapid advances in technology and an expanding demand for new features accelerate the generation of “old” electronic equipment (“e-waste”). The result is a growing challenge for businesses, residents, and local governments as they search for ways to reuse, recycle, or properly dispose of this equipment.
To meet this challenge, California enacted the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, which established the covered electronic waste (CEW) recycling program to offset the cost of compliantly handling certain unwanted electronic devices. The Act and the CEW program have fostered a robust collection and processing infrastructure in the state, resulting in over two billion pounds of unwanted TVs and monitors recovered and recycled. However, the electronic waste stream is becoming more complex and is presenting challenges to the recycling industry and policymakers alike. For this reason, CalRecycle has embarked on a long-term initiative to explore the future possibilities of electronic waste management in California.
Get updates and information about the Future of Electronic Waste Management in California project!
Many components of electronic equipment–including metals, plastic, and glass–can be recycled, while others may presentenvironmental hazards if not managed correctly. This site provides information and resources on how to properly manage your electronic products.
E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
With the passage of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, certain portions of the electronic waste stream are defined and the systems to recover and recycle them will be administratively regulated beyond the universal waste rules that apply to material handling. Please review CalRecycle’s efforts to implement the Act for more information.
Is “e-waste” clearly defined?
The term “e-waste” is loosely applied to consumer and business electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its useful life. There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar “appliances” should be grouped into the category has not been established.
Is “e-waste” considered hazardous?
Certain components of some electronic products contain materials that render them hazardous, depending on their condition and density. For instance, California law currently views nonfunctioning CRTs (cathode ray tubes) from televisions and monitors as hazardous.
What should I do with my electronic discards?
The mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” applies here.
- Reduce your generation of e-waste through smart procurement and good maintenance.
- Reuse still functioning electronic equipment by donating or selling it to someone who can still use it.
- Recycle those products that cannot be repaired. To find an organization that will manage your electronics for recycling, search the directory.
How can I learn more about this topic?
For more information, explore the resources available within this site. Two outstanding overviews include:
- The U.S. EPA provides a historic overview of the issue from a national perspective. (PDF with detailed information). (Note: if you decide to print the document, we suggest you do so in black and white–not color.)
- The Institute for Local Self-Reliance published Plug Into Electronics Reuse to help expand the reuse infrastructure for electronics. Included in the publication are profiles of 22 model electronics reuse operations in the United States.