PDF _ RL34147 - Managing Electronic Waste: An Analysis of State E-Waste Legislation
6-Feb-2008; Linda Luther; 25 p.

Update: Previous Releases:
September 10, 2007

Abstract: Pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established regulations regarding the disposal of hazardous wastes. Although there are federal requirements under RCRA for the management of hazardous waste, some states have opted to implement more stringent requirements — particularly with regard to the management of certain hazardous wastes generated by households and small businesses (entities that are essentially exempt from RCRA’s hazardous waste management requirements).

One category of household hazardous waste that many states are choosing to regulate more strictly is electronic waste, commonly referred to as “e-waste.” E-waste generally refers to obsolete, broken, or irreparable electronic equipment like televisions, computers and computer monitors, laptops, printers, cell phones, copiers, fax machines, stereos, or video gaming systems. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in televisions and computer monitors have presented a particular concern to states, primarily due to the potentially significant amounts of lead they contain and the large numbers in which they are generated.

State concerns specific to the landfill disposal or incineration of e-waste are largely due to its increasing volume and often bulky nature; hazardous constituents, such as lead and mercury, it may contain; its high cost of recycling; and the inability of interested stakeholders, such as electronics retailers and manufacturers, to reach consensus on how to voluntarily implement a national e-waste management system. States have responded to this concern by enacting their own e-waste management laws. Requirements of those laws range from a ban only on the landfill disposal or incineration of designated e-wastes to the implementation of a full e-waste collection, transportation, and recycling system.

To date, 14 states have enacted some form of e-waste management law (as many as 20 states proposed e-waste laws in 2006 and 2007). Although the goal of each law is similar — to avoid landfill disposal and incineration of certain types of e-waste — approaches taken to achieve that goal differ significantly. However, most state laws and proposals have certain broad elements in common, such as specifying the electronic devices covered under the law; how a collection and recycling program will be financed; collection and recycling criteria that must be met to minimize the impact to human health and the environment; and restrictions or requirements that products must meet to be sold in the state.

As more states propose e-waste legislation, potentially regulated stakeholders (particularly electronics manufacturers and retailers) have expressed concern that they will be required to comply with a patchwork of state requirements throughout the United States. This concern has led to an increased call for federal legislation regarding e-waste management. To help policy makers better understand the impact of state e-waste legislation, this report discusses issues that have led to state action, common elements in state-waste laws and proposals, and an overview of each enacted state law.

 [read report]

Topics: Waste Management, Government, General Interest

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