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Electronic Waste: Legislation
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
P2 Opportunities
Corporate and Non-Profit Initiatives
Options for E-Waste
Where to go for Help
Complete List of Links

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Electronics Recycling Bills in Play 2006
A table comparing bills in states and regions, noting whether they are just proposed or have been pa...

Legislation, Policy and Initiatives

E-waste is a relatively new issue, one that is causing global alarm and prompting various governments to respond decisively by passing new legislation to address management and disposal of end-of-life electronics. In the U.S., some states have been more proactive than others, and the federal government is beginning to show concern regarding e-waste. Europe has been more proactive, limiting sales of products into their markets if they don't meet certain criteria.

This section provides a snapshot of various e-waste legislative initiatives underway throughout the U.S., which includes both states and the federal government. In addition, several international legislative initiatives are provided.

Legislation and policy
Federal. To date, there is no federal law in the United States that addresses the growing issue of end-of-life electronic equipment management and disposal. However, in 2003, e-waste legislation was proposed as HR 1165, also known as the National Computer Recycling Act, which would require the U.S. EPA to administer a grant program to aid the establishment of computer recycling programs in the United States. The legislation called for a fee of no more than $10 on the sale of new computers, with exemptions. The bill allowed the administrator of the U.S. EPA to designate additional electronic devices to charge a fee if those devices contained a significant amount of hazardous materials and included a liquid crystal display(s), cathode ray tube(s), or circuit board. Additionally, the legislation called for a study detailing the e-waste problem and current management practices. The EPA administrator would have been required to report on the status of computer recycling to Congress every four years. No further information has been provided regarding the status of this bill.

The most current e-waste legislation was proposed in January 2005, HR 425 the National Computer Recycling Act and HR 320 the Tax Incentives to Encourage Recycling Act (TIER). To date, none of these bills passed.

The EPA did make it easier to recycle cathode ray tubes (CRTs). They have streamlined the management of CRTs. EPA has provided that unbroken CRTs destined for recycling can be stored up to one year, as long as they are clearly labeled and in buildings or containers designed to minimize releases, and safely transported in containers designed to minimize releases. This allows companies to avoid treating CRTs as solid waste, and thus they are not hazardous waste when being recycled.

Regional. The Midwest region (Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa) and the Northeast region, via the Council of State Governments and Northeast Recycling Council (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut), are each working on producer-paid legislation.

State and local governments. Though e-waste is still a comparatively new issue for state legislatures, a number of measures have been considered in the past several years to stem the tide of e-waste, including-

  • Take-back bills--these establish producer responsibility; manufacturers pay for costs of recycling, some include extended producer responsibility (EPR) for outdated electronics.
  • ARF bills--advanced recycling fees (ARF) establish fees for consumers at the time of purchase of certain products; the fees are used for recycling.
  • Study bills--typically set up a task force which makes recommendations to the legislature on how to proceed on e-waste issues.
  • Disposal bans--typically ban certain electronic devices, usually CRTs (monitors and TVs) from landfills and/or incinerators.
  • Voluntary actions--these include helping create computer recycling programs, encouraging donation and reuse of computers, and allowing an income tax credit in the amount of fees paid to an electronics recycler.

Several significant measures have been enacted since 2001, including landmark bills in California, Maine, Maryland, and Washington.

California became the first state to impose an advance recovery fee (ARF) on the sale of electronic products (TVs, monitors (4" or greater), CRTs, and laptops). Fees are collected by retailers, managed by the state, and used to fund the recycling program. Products are collected by participating recyclers, through collection events, or city programs. All computer owners in California can participate.

In Maine, legislation requires computer manufacturers to be responsible for the handling and recycling of computer monitors (CRTs and flat panels), TVs, laptops, and central processing units (CPUs) if attached to the monitor. Producers are primarily responsible for the cost of the program; local governments provide collection. The program is for households only.

Maryland collects monitors, CPUs, and laptops. Counties pay the cost; they can apply for grants from the state. The program is a five-year pilot. Producers pay registration fee to state's recycling fund, which is reduced after the first year if they institute a take-back program. It is not specified as to who can participate in recycling.

Washington's bill requires electronics manufacturers to pay for the collection, transportation, and recycling of computers, monitors, and TVs from consumers, small businesses, schools, small governments, and charities in the state. It provides recycling options in every county in the state and prohibits use of prison labor for e-waste disassembly.

It is interesting to note the process that led to the Washington bill. The Department of Ecology convened a large stakeholder group including manufacturers, local government officials, recyclers, retailers, environmental organizations, and charity groups. Widespread support for the bill was developed through this stakeholder process. A bill that would have prevented export of e-waste to developing nations was vetoed by Governor Christine Gregoire, who felt it was outside the state's authority. She called upon the federal government to enact such legislation. EPA currently requires written notification from the receiving country when e-waste is sent overseas.

Landfill bans have been passed in Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Several other states are considering bans. Several states are studying the issue. A summary of electronics recycling bills is available from

Voluntary initiatives. The following list reflects some of the initiatives that are arising in response to the growing concern of e-waste:

  • Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC) is a voluntary partnership program that encourages federal agencies and facilities to purchase greener electronic products, reduce impacts of electronic products during use, and manage obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way.
  • EPEAT (the electronic products environmental assessment tool) is a multi-stakeholder process to design, implement, and disseminate a tool that measures the environmental performance of electronic products for use in government and institutional purchasing. EPEAT provides a Product Registry for manufacturers with environmentally preferable products. There are three levels of qualification, based on meeting a set of minimum criteria and going beyond the minimum.
  • The National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI) is a multi-stakeholder dialogue aimed at developing a national financing system to help maximize the reuse and recycling of used TVs and personal computers. The NEPSI dialogue includes representatives from electronics manufacturers, retailers, state and local governments, recyclers, environmental groups, and others.

Industry initiatives. Several private companies are aware of the growing problem of e-waste, and thus, have taken a proactive role in addressing the issue. Product stewardship, becoming more and more synonymous with pollution prevention and resource- use efficiency, is quickly becoming an important aspect of the corporate philosophy. Product stewardship means that all parties involved in producing, selling, or using a product take full responsibility for the environmental and economic impact of that product. The term "product stewardship" is often used interchangeably with several related terms: shared responsibility, extended product responsibility (EPR), manufacturer responsibility, and extended producer responsibility (EPR). Each term differs slightly in assigning responsibility for a product's life-cycle. Electronics manufacturers like Dell, IBM, Apple, Sony Electronics, and Compaq all have "end-of-life" responsibility programs in place. From trade associations to computer manufacturing companies to chip manufacturers to retail stores, product stewardship has become serious business. View a sample of private companies that have taken a leadership role in regard to shared responsibility for managing electronics. A list of links to Industry Initiatives for Electronics Recycling can be found at the National Recycling Coalition.

International. Among governments, the European Union (EU) has demonstrated strong leadership by taking aggressive legislative actions in addressing the issue of e-waste. More specifically, there are two directives that have emerged, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive.

In its simplest terms, the WEEE Directive is meant to address the management of electrical and electronic waste by producers by creating "take-back" systems free of charge to end users, and the RoHS directive's purpose is to ultimately ensure that all electrical and electronic equipment put on the EU market is free from hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, or PBBs or PBDEs (brominated flame retardants).


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Electronic Waste Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Western Sustainability Pollution Prevention Network
Western Sustainability Pollution Prevention Network
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Hub Last Updated: 10/23/2006