California Eyes Upgrade to Aging E-Waste Program
Expansion Could Include Nearly All Devices with Cords or Batteries
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery is out with a new set of recommendations to redesign California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act (SB 20, Sher, Chapter 526, Statutes of 2003).
Right now, the state’s Covered Electronic Waste (CEW) payment program includes just a fraction of the estimated 120 million electronic devices purchased in California each year. Without a change, millions of these devices—which often contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury—could be illegally disposed or improperly managed.
“California’s CEW program created the infrastructure needed to safely manage the state’s e-waste while providing convenience for consumers and cost relief for local governments, but technology is changing and our program must change, too,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “As electronics get more complex, California must innovate e-waste management to maximize resource conservation and minimize public and environmental harm.”
Following two years of workshops, surveys, and discussions with tech leaders and other stakeholders, CalRecycle developed a summary and recommendations for the Future of Electronic Waste Management in California. Among the top recommendations are the expansion of the number and type of products covered under the CEW program.
Devices Currently Covered in the CEW Program
(Screens greater than 4” diagonally)
- Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Televisions, Monitors, Devices
- Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Televisions and Monitors
- Laptops with LCD screens, including most tablets
- Plasma Televisions
- Portable DVD Players with LCD Screens
Proposed Covered Electronic Devices
- Most Devices Requiring Batteries or Power Cords
Other CalRecycle recommendations to redesign California’s e-waste management efforts include:
- Incentivizing greater repair and reuse of electronic devices
- Increasing manufacturer responsibilities, including labeling and greater attention to durability/recyclability
- Exploring a transition from the current consumer fee to a manufacturer funded program to cover the costs of proper end-of-life product management
- Annually adjusting recycling and recovery payments to authorized CEW collectors and recyclers
- Encouraging industry take-back programs for emerging technologies like electric car batteries and solar panels
CalRecycle formally adopted the above policy recommendations at its May 2018 public meeting. Moving forward, the department will continue to engage stakeholders on these recommendations.
Fast Facts: Electronic Waste in California
- California’s CEW program has successfully managed more than 2.2 billion pounds of e-waste since 2005
- Electronics are considered hazardous waste and are illegal to dispose in household trash
- 273,878 tons of (mostly non-CEW) electronics make their way to California landfills each year
- Batteries hidden inside e-waste cause explosions and fires when shredded at recycling and recovery facilities
- Newer electronics are smaller and more costly to dismantle, and they have less scrap material value
- Covered Electronic Waste program payments are weight-based
- 46 percent of household hazardous waste collected by local governments is e-waste
- Roughly $55 billion is lost globally each year as a result of e-waste being trashed instead of recycled