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Electronic Waste Recycling – Process,California E-Cycling Fees and Act of 2003 as USA Shockingly has failed to Pass a Federal E-Waste Law

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Electronic Waste is a massive problem in the Developed and Developing world with Thousands of Tons of Hazardous Electronic Waste being generated each year.With Electronics getting more ubiquitous and costs falling rapidly,Electronic Waste Problem is only going to increase.E-Waste is responsible not only for releasing dangerous substances into the environment it also causes deaths and injuries to poor in countries like India,China and Africa who are forced to work in extremely bad conditions.Electronic Waste Recycling is  the need of the hour but the governments around the world have not pushed hard enough.Europe has been at the forefront with the WEEE directive passed in 2002 while USA has been a laggard as usual failing to prevent toxic waste from being dumped in landfills and shipped to poor countries with lax environmental regulations.Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 has been passed in California which again as usual has been leading the federal government on clean technology legislation.

How the Powerful Technology Industry have prevented USA from passing a E-Waste Management Law

It is quite shocking that USA which is the global leader in Technology with companies like Apple,Google,Microsoft,IBM does not have a federal law on regulation of electronic waste.It is the powerful corporate lobby which has prevented this hazardous waste from being obligatorily disposed of in an ecologically sound manner.It is surprising and shocking that USA has failed to pass the law which leads to thousands of tons of toxic electronics waste being shipped to countries like India besides polluting the landfills in America with hazardous materials as well.At present, there is no Federal mandate to recycle e-waste. There have been numerous attempts to develop a Federal law. However, to date, there is no consensus on a Federal approach.However any states have instituted mandatory electronics recovery programs. The following website provides regularly updated information on state e-waste legislation

What is Electronic Waste Recycling Process

Electronics  has grown at such a tremendous pace that Americans own approximately 24 electronic products per household.The electronic waste recycling business has involved greater diversion of electronic waste from energy-intensive downcycling processes (e.g., conventional recycling), where equipment is reverted to a raw material form. This diversion is achieved through reuse and refurbishing.

Process Steps

In developed countries, electronic waste processing usually first involves dismantling the equipment into various parts (metal frames, power supplies, circuit boards, plastics), often by hand.To obtain the highest possible result, labour intensive methods are used to completely disassemble and separate items into core materials and components.

In an alternative bulk system a hopper conveys material for shredding into an unsophisticated mechanical separator, with screening and granulating machines to separate constituent metal and plastic fractions, which are sold to recyclers.  Some of the emissions are caught by scrubbers and screens. Magnets are employed to separate glass, plastic and  metals.. Hazardous smoke and gases are captured, contained, and treated to mitigate environmental threat.

Alternatives to Electronic Waste Recycling

Reusing Electronics and Benefits

Reuse extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time. Reuse, in addition to being an environmentally preferable alternative, also benefits society.

Donating Electronics and Benefits

Donating used (but still operating) electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time.By donating your used electronics, you allow schools, nonprofit organizations, and lower-income families to obtain equipment that they otherwise could not afford.s a business, you might be able to take advantage of tax incentives for computer equipment donations.

Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003
EWRA was signed into law on September 24, 2003, and amended by SB 50 (Stats. 2004, ch. 863) on September 29, 2004. One of the major objectives of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, as amended, was to establish a new program for consumers to return video display devices, such as televisions and computer monitors, that are hazardous wastes when discarded. California consumers had to pay a fee of $6 to $10 at the time they purchase certain video display devices. Those fees are deposited into a special account that is used to pay qualified e-waste collectors and recyclers to cover their costs of managing e-waste.

Electronic Recycling Fee in California

California unlike the European Union has taken a different approach to funding of Electronic Waste Management.Whereas in Europe,”Producer Responsibility” is used to fund the disposing of e-waste,California charges the fee fro the customer of electronics. The Electronic Waste Recycling (eWaste) Fee is a fee imposed on the retail sale or lease of certain electronic products that have been identified by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)  To remit the fee, a retailer must register with the Board of Equalization. A retailer may retain 3 percent of the eWaste fee it collects as reimbursement for costs associated with the collection of the fee.

The Electronic Waste Recycling Act had two main objectives:

1. To limit the amount of toxic substances in certain electronic products sold in California:  The levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium allowed in materials that make up covered electronic devices are limited by California’s ROHS. Manufacturers of covered electronic devices are required to provide information  to: 1) reduce the levels of toxic substances in electronic devices they produce; 2) increase the use of recyclable materials in their products; and 3) provide outreach programs to consumers

2. To establish a funding system for the collection and recycling of discarded covered electronic devices.

Which sales and products are subject to the fee?

Effective January 1, 2005, the fee is due on the retail sale or lease of a new or refurbished* CED that has a screen size of more than 4 inches measured diagonally. CEDs include:

  • Televisions that contain cathode ray tubes.
  • Computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes or use liquid crystal displays (LCD).
  • Laptop computers.
  • “Bare” cathode ray tubes or any other product that contains a cathode ray tube.
  • Televisions containing LCD screens, which includes any device containing an LCD display greater than 4 inches measured diagonally (viewable size), that has television tuner capability and can process a broadcast, cable, or satellite transmitted television signal (added July 1, 2005).
  • Plasma televisions (added July 1, 2005).
  • Portable DVD Players with LCD screens (added July 1, 2007).

Sources and Further Reads


Abhishek Shah

One Response so far | Have Your Say!


    This product is advertised as being eco-friendly and is said to not
    emit any gasses or harmful fumes. The wastes especially cadmium and lead in the wastes invariably mix with rain water, then seep through the ground and drain into nearby streams and lakes and other
    water bodies. Then more cups are put in place,
    six or more, and they can be moved around.