Electronic Waste Management

What is e-waste?

Electronic waste or "e-waste" is a term used to describe old, end-of-life electronic appliances and devices. Examples of "e-waste" include:
  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Fax machines and copiers
  • Television sets
  • Stereo/audio equipment
  • Phones (including cell phones)
  • Personal digital assistants (PDAs)
  • Game consoles
  • Electronics from industrial sources.

Why is e-waste a problem?

As we become more dependent on electronic products to make life more convenient, the stockpile of used, obsolete products grows. "E-cycling" is reusing or recycling of these consumer electronics.

Computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain an average of four pounds of lead. In addition to lead, electronics can contain chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc and brominated flame retardants. When electronics are not disposed of or recycled properly, these toxic materials can present problems.

Why should we recycle e-waste?

Extending the life of your electronics or donating your most up-to-date and working electronics can save you money and saves valuable resources. Safely recycling outdated electronics can promote the safe management of hazardous components and supports the recovery and reuse of valuable materials. 

Click here to view U.S. EPA's eCycling website. 

Hazardous Components of E-waste

Electronic waste (e-waste) often has hazardous or toxic components that can impact the environment once the materials end up in a landfill or if they are improperly managed and disposed. Below is a list of hazardous or toxic components of e-waste and where they may be found:

  • Antimony trioxide: a flame retardant, added to cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor glass. Found in printed circuit boards and cables.
  • Arsenic. Found in older CRTs and in light emitting diodes.
  • Barium. Found in CRTs.
  • Beryllium: often allied with copper to improve copper's strength, conductivity and elasticity. Found in old motherboards, contact springs found in printed circuit boards, relays and in the mirror mechanism of laser printers. Also found in power supply boxes that contain silicon controlled rectifiers and x-ray lenses.
  • Cadmium. Found in circuit boards and semiconductors, rechargeable NiCd-batteries, fluorescent layer (CRT screens), printer inks and toners and photocopying-machines (printer drums).
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC): a cooling unit. Found in insulation foam.
  • Chromium. Found in steel as corrosion protection, data tapes, floppy-disks, circuit boards and photocopying-machines (printer drums).
  • Cobalt: a component in steel for structural strength and magnetivity.
  • Lead. Found in CRTs, solder, batteries, printed wiring boards (circuit boards) and solder on components.
  • Lithium. Found in batteries.
  • Mercury. Found in switches (mercury-wetted) and housing, fluorescent lamps providing back-lighting in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) for monitors and laptops, batteries and printed circuit boards.
  • Nickel. Found in batteries, electron gun in CRT and printed circuit boards.
  • Polybrominated flame retardants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and tetrabromo bis-biphenol-a (TBBA). Found in plastic casings, cables, circuit boards, condensers and transformers.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Found in cable insulation.
  • Selenium. Found in circuit boards as power to supply rectifier and photocopying-machines (printer drums).
  • Zinc. Found in the interior of CRT screens and printed circuit boards.

Resource Links for E-Waste

Search Ohio EPA's list of Recyclers and Environmental Service Providers.

Donating Your Computer

A working computer is a terrible electronic to waste. Donating computers to those who need them is a positive situation for business and the community. Reusing computers benefits communities, helps us use valuable materials wisely and keeps working computers out of the trash. U.S. EPA has information that can get you pointed in the right direction when donating your computer equipment here.

Businesses

As your business takes advantage of new equipment, what do you do with your obsolete equipment? Ohio EPA encourages businesses to recycle or donate old electronic equipment. Many schools, non-profit and charitable organizations accept working electronic goods. If equipment cannot be reused, another good option is sending equipment to a reputable recycler. A recycler will disassemble equipment and recover useable components such as memory boards, disk drives, video cards and microprocessor chips. Plastic and glass components may be recycled into new products. Metals can be separated and sent to smelters where they are melted and used to make new products.

If you dispose of computers and monitors instead of having them recycled, you could be considered a generator of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA requires generators to determine whether or not the waste they generate is hazardous by using generator knowledge or by testing representative samples of that waste. Computer components could be considered hazardous because of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium or chromium.

If you do not test used computers and monitors and prove them non-hazardous, you must assume they are hazardous waste and dispose of them at a permitted hazardous waste facility or recycle them.

E-waste Links for Businesses

Guidance for Management of Electronic Waste from Businesses, Ohio EPA, Division of Hazardous Waste Management

Guide to Computer & Electronics Waste Reduction and Recycling and List of Electronic Waste Recycling Companies, Ohio EPA, Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention

Identifying Your Hazardous Waste (Fact Sheet), Ohio EPA, Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention

List of Commercial Facilities Accepting Hazardous Waste in Ohio, Ohio EPA, Division of Hazardous Waste Management

CompRecycle Listserv

This is a national computer recycling listserv. To subscribe to the list, send an email to: listproc@mcfeeley.cc.utexas.edu. Leave the subject line blank. In the message,  enter: "sub CompRecycle (Your Name)."

Homeowners/Consumers

Electronic equipment is used by almost everyone, and advances in technology result in newer equipment continually becoming available for home use. As our old electronic equipment becomes outdated, it is important that we think carefully about reusing and recycling materials, instead of just throwing equipment in landfills. The Electronic Equipment from Your Home fact sheet helps you make the best decisions about what to do with your old electronic equipment. The Electronic Industries Alliance and Earth 911 websites also identify electronic equipment recyclers in many areas around the country.

Information on how to remove data and clean your computer’s hard drive is available at Do the PC Thing for Consumers as well.

State and Local Governments

Used and obsolete electronics, such as computers, printers, mobile phones and fax machines, are part of an increasing and complex waste stream that poses challenging environmental management problems for state, local and federal facilities.

Visit U.S. EPA’s e-waste recycling website for information and resources on electronics recycling.

Manufacturers and Retailers

U.S. EPA invites manufacturers and retailers to join the Plug-In To eCycling campaign. Becoming a partner is great way to both promote your efforts and link them to a national electronics recycling effort. Through Plug-In To eCycling, EPA hopes to highlight the forward-thinking players in electronics recycling and enhance the infrastructure to jump-start the collection of electronics waste. By joining the campaign, your company can receive national recognition from EPA for your efforts.

See information below on U.S. EPA’s Plug-in To e-Cycling Program website and additional information in the section below.

Plug-In To eCycling

Plug-In To eCycling is a voluntary partnership between EPA and consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers to offer consumers more opportunities to donate or recycle to "eCycle" their used electronics. Partners in the program may:

  • Offer online take back or trade-in programs
  • Create partnerships with local organizations to facilitate collections
  • Host collection events at retail locations
  • Support local recycling events with cities and municipalities

Get more information on how to recycle your used electronics through U.S. EPA’s Plug-In to e-Cycling Partners website.

Other Links