The volume, weight, storage needs and cost associated with effective e-waste management present special challenges but can be safely managed by local communities. The benefits of establishing local e-waste collection programs include:
Before planning a community e-waste collection program, it is necessary to learn about the basic information associated with electronic waste and determine the reasons for establishing a program. Electronic wastes contain metals and other materials that can be hazardous to human health and the environment if they are not properly managed. It is helpful to understand the hierarchy for handling e-waste. Best management practices encourage waste be handled in the most environmentally desirable method. A preferential waste management hierarchy for electronics and processing residuals:
Generally, any electronic product with a circuit board or a battery will have hazardous characteristics. E-waste may include personal computers, monitors, televisions, keyboards, printers, telephones, typewriters, calculators, copiers, fax machines and audio equipment.
Most local, community collection programs are only available to households with a couple pieces of electronic waste. Some programs allow non-profit organizations, schools, churches, etc. to participate for a small fee to recover program costs. Commercial and institutional generators are generally excluded and are required handle their e-waste directly.
There are costs incurred in all forms of waste handling - solid waste, hazardous waste, electronic waste, construction and demolition waste, etc. Participants should understand and calculate the cost associated with properly handling electronic wastes.
NOTE: Illegal dumping of electronic waste also poses a serious cost to human health and the environment as inappropriately handled toxic materials may impact groundwater, surface water and soil.
Challenges in collecting e-waste include weight, volume and storage needs. An ideal collection site would meet the following minimum standards:
Sheltered to protect e-waste and insure operating equipment can be reused first, rather than recycled or processed.
Storage capacity to minimize transportation costs; a full trailer load is approximately 22 pallets or 20,000 pounds
Heavy equipment to move palletized or boxed e-waste.
Accessible for loading and unloading.
NOTE: At present time, facilities that collect used or discarded electronics for recycling do not require a permit. For more information please visit Recyclers and Recovered Materials Processors or contact your local Environmental Field Office at 1-888-891-TDEC.
It is important that electronics recyclers operate according to best practice management. The Federal Electronics Challenge provides a Checklist for the Selection of Electronic Recycling Services related to best management practices, current service areas and collection specifications. Responses to this survey should aid in selection of an electronics recycler according to the best fit for your needs and environmental concerns.
The e-waste industry offers a variety of recycling facilities and terminology. Here are some common terms used to describe services: