What do you do with that cracked screen you just removed from the tablet you're working on? Don't throw it out; recycle it.
Electronics contain all sorts of nasty chemicals and toxic materials and should not be sent to a landfill. E-waste is a growing international crisis. You, as a repair technician, must be part of the solution.
Not only is e-waste recycling the responsible thing that every repair technician should do, it's the law. And as an added bonus to doing the right thing, many e-waste recyclers will pay for e-scrap materials.
Disposal of batteries requires special attention. In any condition, all batteries pose a fire and safety hazard and should be handled and disposed of properly. Batteries can not be placed in municipal waste collection, and must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility.
Not every recycling company is worthy of your e-waste. Up to 70-80% of the e-waste that is supposedly “recycled” is sent to developing countries, according to estimates by the anti-e-waste crusaders at Basel Action Network (BAN). In places such as Ghana, India, and China, poorly paid workers, sometimes children, sort and take apart the waste, breathing toxic fumes as they melt down circuit boards and other parts to get at precious metals inside. Before you pick a recycling company, do some research about what they do with the hardware they receive — if they can’t or won’t tell you, that’s a bad sign.
How can you tell which recycling companies are trustworthy? It’s not as cut and dried as you might hope. But there are some tools to help consumers like us find reputable companies. In the US, there are two major certification groups: e-Stewards, from the environmental watchdog BAN, and Responsible Recycling (R2), from non-profit SERI. Here’s a list of most of the R2-certified recyclers, and here’s a searchable database of e-Stewards recyclers. R2 and e-Stewards both certify recyclers through “certifying bodies,” which are independent companies, who are in turn certified by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board.
So, in all that alphabet soup, what’s the difference between R2 and e-Stewards? We looked into it. Some recyclers are certified only by one, and others have both certifications. The bottom line: We’ve reviewed them both, and we support both measures of accreditation. When you’re looking to recycle your electronics, you can trust a recycler with either certification.
E-Waste Laws and How to Follow Them
United States of America
The United States of America does not have a national e-waste mandate. However, individual states have passed state e-waste laws. The list below is a community-built list. If your state isn't listed below, don't assume there's not state e-waste law for you to follow.
- Recycle Indiana: e-waste
- Indiana Electronic Waste Program Registered Collectors (PDF)
- Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts
Texas requires all companies that manufacturer new computers to offer free recycling for consumers.
The European Union Directive on e-waste stipulates in article 5 that all households can return their e-waste free of charge. You can return your irreparable equipment free of charge to
- specialised collection facilities,
- to the distributor from whom you purchase an equivalent new product, even electronic merchants,
- or to department stores, who are obliged to take back small appliances without any obligation for you to purchase a new product.
Batteries, cells and lamps can in many countries be returned in collectors in supermarkets and a large number of small retail stores.
The list below contains country-specific solutions to find e-waste return points near you.
- Ecosystem: Need to get rid of a device? (for private people and professionals)
- You can return most products to several distributors and there is an official campaign called “Plan E”
- For more information about the German e-waste situation please head over to Kreislaufwirtschaft.
- CdC RAEE is a national government institution coordinating electric and electronic devices collection and recycling. Centro di Coordinamento RAEE
Asia is the largest consumer of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE — anything with a battery or a cord), buying nearly half of EEE put on the market. Asia as a whole not only accounts for the majority of EEE sales, but also generates the highest volume of e-waste—estimated at 16 million tonnes in 2014. However, on a per capita basis, this amounts to only to 3.7 kg per inhabitant, as compared to Europe and the Americas, which generate nearly four times as much per capita — 15.6 kg per inhabitant.
With growing incomes, consumers in Asia now replace their gadgets more frequently. In addition, many products are designed for low-cost production, but not necessarily repair, refurbishment or easy recycling.
All the countries in the region control e-waste either via the Basel Convention or their national legal frameworks. However, measures to control the import of second-hand electronics and e-waste are different among the countries and regions. There are two types of control measures for the import of e-waste and second-hand electronics: 1) to control the import of e-waste and not restrict the import of second-hand electronics (Taiwan, Province of China, Japan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Vietnam); and 2) to prohibit the import of e-waste and prohibit or restrict the import of second-hand electronics (Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam).
Despite these formal steps, enforcement of these measures remains a significant challenge in these countries and many others around the globe.
For more information, please see the Regional E-Waste-Monitor.
To protect the environment, China has passed the regulation of E-waste recycling in 2008 and practiced it in 2011.
Some major websites run second-hand electronic devices such as cellphones and computers recycling. However, there's no certification and it is hard to know which one is trustworthy.
The following Ministry of Environment website shows where you can bring unwanted home appliances for recycling based on your residential area.
Portal Site for Recycling Compact-Appliances：
For home appliance recycling, please follow your regional guidelines for proper method of disposal.
South Korea does not have a national e-waste mandate but some local governments have launched e-waste recycling programs.
Since 2009, the Seoul Metropolitan Government adopted the Urban Mining Project which extract rare metals from discarded electronics collected by district offices or public institutions. Check out the Seoul Resource Center.
The requirements for e-waste management in Latin America are relatively new. It is unfortunate to know that no Latin American country exceeds 5% in the recycling of electronic waste generated annually. Only a few countries in the region have specific laws and regulations on the management of electronic waste.
Brazil is the leader in the production of e-waste in Latin America (and second in the whole american continent) and has a national solid waste legislation from 2010, the "Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos". It defines the principles, goals and instruments related to the comprehensive and solid waste management (federal district, each federal state and the municipalities have to cooperate with the union in order to implement the established in the law): http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_at....
According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, Brazil had 1.5 Mt of e-waste with only 3% adequate collection quote.
There are waste collection companies and beside that waste picker cooperatives working in a non-profit model which also offer e-waste collection. Here just a few of them:
Several countries in the Middle East have set up their own national e-waste legislation. Some initiatives are listed below.
You can access Turkey’s legislation concerning the issue here.
You can find details about e-waste management on a per Provence level on this site.