What is in this article?:
- Left to Your Own Devices
- What is E-cycling?
- What Happens in States Without E-waste Regulations?
The e-waste disposal landscape is changing rapidly, exposing many liabilities.
Owners of e-waste recycling facilities face a demanding future as additional environmental regulations impact their industry. So far, 24 states have established laws that specifically address e-waste and e-cycling. Some of the laws may expand the potential tort (legal) liabilities for these facility owners, who could find themselves held liable for:
- Pollution incidents at the e-cycling site caused by improper processing or handling of the e-waste.
- Pollution incidents arising during the transportation of the e-waste, the resulting recycled product, or the hazardous or universal waste generated during the recovery process.
- Disposal practices at either pick-up sites or waste processing sites.
Besides those liabilities, a facility’s failure to comply with regulations set by the U.S.(EPA) may result in fines and other penalties, up to and including the shutdown of a site’s operations. Examples of such pitfalls include:
- Failure to implement certain physical upgrades.
- Exceeding regulated air or water emission levels.
- Failure to purchase specific insurance coverages and limits that may be required under the environmental regulations.
What is E-waste?
E-waste refers to obsolete electronic equipment that cannot, or will not, be re-used in its current form as determined by resellers or recyclers with specialized expertise. EPA designates most e-waste as either “non-hazardous waste” or “non-waste.” Examples of non-hazardous e-waste include household electronics, scrap metal, precious metal for recycling or whole circuit boards for recycling. E-waste designated as non-waste includes electronic equipment with the potential for re-use, or electronic waste that has been processed into usable raw commodities, such as processed cathode ray tube (CRT) glass or shredded circuit boards.
In addition, some state regulations may classify e-waste as “hazardous waste” or “universal waste.” The hazardous waste designation covers e-waste from commercial or industrial generators (rather than residential), e-waste generated at rates in excess of 220 pounds per month for businesses or organizations, and e-waste with an otherwise “hazardous characteristic.” This material, regulated under federal law, must be clearly marked “hazardous waste” and sent for disposal in authorized hazardous waste landfills. Waste that potentially falls under this “hazardous waste” definition includes some cell phones and laptops.
Universal waste refers to hazardous e-waste with special controls regulating its handling, disposal or recycling. This includes items such as mercury lamps (fluorescent lighting) and rechargeable batteries.