Electronic waste is a significant part of today's global, post-consumer waste stream. Efforts are being made to recycle and reduce this waste.
Main article: Basel Convention
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, usually known simply as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.
Of the 172 parties to the Convention, Afghanistan, Haiti, and the United States have signed the Convention but have not yet ratified it.
Further information: Waste legislation
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) tends to support the repair and recycling trade. Mining to produce the same metals, to meet demand for finished products in the west, also occurs in the same countries, and UNCTAD has recommended that restrictions against recycling exports be balanced against the environmental costs of recovering those materials from mining. Hard rock mining produces 45% of all toxins produced by all industries in the United States.
Greenpeace contends that residue problems are so significant that the exports of all used electronics should be banned.
Main article: E-Waste in Africa
The e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) was established in 2008 to manage the establishment of a sustainable environmentally sound e-waste management system for the country. Since then the non-profit organization has been working with manufacturers, vendors and distributors of electronic and electrical goods and e-waste handlers (including re-furbishers, dismantlers and recyclers) to manage e-waste effectively.
Many Asian countries have legislated, or will do so, for electronic waste recycling.
South Korea, Japan and Taiwan ensure manufacturer responsibility by demanding that they recycle 75% of their annual production.
Main article: Electronic waste in China
Chinese laws are primarily concerned with eliminating the import of e-waste. China has ratified the Basel Convention as well as the Basel Ban Amendment, officially banning the import of e-waste. In October 2008, The Chinese State Council also approved a "draft regulation on the management of electronic waste." This regulation is intended to promote the continued use of resources through recycling and to monitor the end-of-life treatment of electronics. Under the new regulations, recycling of electronics by the consumer is mandated. It also requires the recycling of unnecessary materials discarded in the manufacturing process.
Main article: Electronic waste in India
Main article: Electronic waste in Japan
Some European countries implemented laws prohibiting the disposal of electronic waste in landfills in the 1990s. "This created an e-waste processing industry in Europe."
In Switzerland, the first electronic waste recycling system was implemented in 1991, beginning with collection of old refrigerators. Over the years, all other electric and electronic devices were gradually included in the system. Legislation followed in 1998, and since January 2005 it has been possible to return all electronic waste to the sales points and other collection points free of charge. There are two established producer responsibility organizations: SWICO, mainly handling information, communication, and organization technology, and SENS, responsible for electrical appliances. The total amount of recycled electronic waste exceeds 10 kg per capita per year.
Additionally, the European Union has implemented several directives and regulations that place the responsibility for "recovery, reuse and recycling" on the manufacturer.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive), as it is often referred to, has now been transposed in national laws in all member countries of the European Union. It was designed to make equipment manufacturers financially or physically responsible for their equipment at the end of its life, under a policy known as Extended producer responsibility (EPR). "Users of electrical and electronic equipment from private households should have the possibility of returning WEEE at least free of charge", and manufacturers must dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner, by ecological disposal, reuse, or refurbishment. EPR is seen as a useful policy as it internalizes the end-of-life costs and provided a competitive incentive for companies to design equipment with fewer costs and liabilities when it reached its end of life. However, the application of the WEEE Directive has been criticized for implementing the EPR concept in a collective manner, and thereby losing the competitive incentive of individual manufacturers to be rewarded for their green design. Since August 13, 2005, electronics manufacturers have become financially responsible for compliance to the WEEE Directive. Under the directive, each country recycles at least 4 kg of electronic waste per capita per year. Furthermore, the Directive should "decrease e-waste and e-waste exports.". In December 2008 a draft revision to the Directive proposed a market-based goal of 65%, which is 22 kg per capita in the case of the United Kingdom. A decision on the proposed revisions could result in a new WEEE Directive by 2012.
The Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (2002/95/EC), commonly referred to as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS Directive), was also adopted in February 2003 by the European Union. The RoHS Directive took effect on July 1, 2006, and is required to be enforced and become law in each member state. This directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment.
The Battery Directive enacted in 2006 regulates the manufacture, disposal and trade of batteries in the European Union.
In February 2004, a fee similar to the one in California was added to the cost of purchasing new televisions, computers, and computer components in Alberta, the first of its kind in Canada. Saskatchewan also implemented an electronics recycling fee in February 2007, followed by British Columbia in August 2007, Nova Scotia in February 2008, Ontario in April 2009, and Quebec in October 2012. In 2007, Manitoba issued the Proposed Electrical and Electronic Equipment Stewardship Regulation by which the sale of regulated products is forbidden unless covered by the stewardship program. "Products covered under this legislation include TVs, computers, laptops, and scanners." Recycling regulation passed in Ontario in October 2004, requires producers to "either develop product stewardship plans or comply with a product stewardship program for specific products."
Canadian Federal legislation The Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations (EIHWHRMR) operates with a few basic premises, one of which being that electronic waste is either "intact" or "not intact". The various annexes define hazardous waste in Canada, and also deem any waste that is "...considered or defined as hazardous under the legislation of the country receiving it and is prohibited by that country from being imported or conveyed in transit" to be covered under Canadian regulation and therefore subject to prior informed consent procedures.
The loophole in the regulations that allows tons of e-waste to be exported from Canada is the use of the definition of "intact" vs "functional". A non-functioning electronic device that is intact can be exported under the current legislation. What can't be exported is a non-functioning but no longer intact electronic device. The principal problem being, the non-functioning electronic device is at high risk of being disassembled in some far away e-waste dumping ground. The Canadian government's use of a unique interpretation of the Basel Convention obligations "intact" and "not intact" opens the door to uncontrolled e-waste exports as long as the device is intact. See Canadian fact sheet and associated links.
Since Canada ratified the Basel Convention on August 28, 1992, and as of August 2011, Environment Canada's Enforcement Branch has initiated 176 investigations for violations under EIHWHRMR, some of which are still in progress. There have been 19 prosecutions undertaken for non-compliance with the provisions of the EIHWHRMR some of which are still before the courts.
Main article: Electronic waste in the United States
Israel adopted a national e-waste law that went into effect March 1, 2014. By 2021, the law demands that electronic companies must recycle at least 50% of the weight of the electronics they sell. In addition, these companies are required to accept old electronics from consumers free of charge. Israel’s e-waste laws have resulted in much greater participation in recycling. One of Israel’s main companies, M.A.I., an electronics recycling corporation, has reported that they have recycled 5000 tons of electronic waste in 2014, which already exceeds their personal requirement of recycling 4700 tons.
EPR laws in Latin America are present but could use improvement in terms of the “consistency regarding criteria for the development of new EPR programs that has impeded the broad development of EPR laws, such as post evaluation programs, overall cost of waste management, reduction in the use of resources and decrease of the public sector burden”. However, one aspect that differentiates their laws from those currently present in the U.S. is that they are quickly moving away from voluntary laws and working towards implementing more direct/demanding policies. Countries such as “Colombia, Costa Rica, and Chile have been the first in the region to introduce EPR as a policy approach that seeks to address the problems of pollution and overflowing landfills by implementing alternatives for waste management”.
Given the rise of waste production during the past decade, solid waste management has recently become a central concern for Chile’s government. In 2009, the Chilean National Environmental Commission identified Chile as “one of the countries with the highest rates of waste generation in Latin America”. They’ve since been working to implement a law, with the help of the National Environment Commission (CONAMA), that would add regulatory power over waste production. In August 2013, the Chilean congress approved a law that established a framework for waste management, EPR and the encouragement of recycling.
In 2013, Colombia implemented an EPR law that ultimately focused on enforcing guidelines for managing electronic waste. Additionally, the country has developed a number of “post-consumer programs for used batteries, medicine, computers and printers, fluorescent light bulbs, used tires and pesticide containers”. Today, Colombia has a legal framework for EPR in place.
Upon its implementation in 2006, the Mercosur Policy Agreement mandated Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay to anchor EPR laws as environmental policies. Brazil enacted a National Policy to reduce solid waste which ultimately acted as an EPR and as a way to reduce both solid and hazardous waste.
Electronic waste here is very low but there is still nearly .981 million tons of E-waste
Electronic waste has been on the agenda of the Australian Federal Government since the mid-1990s. The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (now replaced by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC)) was the first body to identify electrical and electronic waste as a concern. In 2002, the EPHC again declared that e-waste needed action. The Electrical Equipment Product Stewardship Sub-Group examined the issue and decided that computer and television waste were 'wastes of concern'. Since that time the television and computer industry has been working with the EPHC to identify a suitable way to manage end-of-life televisions and computers.
In November 2008 the EPHC committed to the development of a national solution to the issue of managing television and computer waste. This action culminated in the release of a package of documents designed to enable public consultation on the various options for managing end-of-life televisions and computers on 16 July 2009. The main document in the package is the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement: Televisions and Computers. The paper canvasses various options for managing end-of-life units and analyses the costs and benefits of each. The Consultation Paper does not have a preferred option. The preferred option will be developed by government through the public consultation process prior to the next meeting of the EPHC on 5 November 2009 in Perth where State and Federal Minister will adopt a position.
A series of public meetings were held in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne to receive feedback to the government's proposals. The meetings occurred in late July and early August 2009.
In November 2009 the National Waste Policy was agreed by governments across Australia and officially endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in August 2010. The Product Stewardship Act 2011 introduced new legislation and provided a framework for developing legislatively backed product stewardship for Australia. Shortly thereafter the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) was introduced, which mandated the first targets for electronics recycling in Australia.
The NTCRS has a strong focus on providing free access to the Australian public for e-waste recycling, with services being rolled out progressively across all Australian States in 2012/13. With an initial focus on televisions, computers and computer peripherals the NTCRS is aims to significantly increase recycling rates for electronics in Australia, from an estimated 17.00% in 2010 to 30.00% in 2012/13 and up to 80.00% by 2021/22.
Product Stewardship Australia (PSA) is a not-for-profit organisation established by the television industry to lead the way in developing recycling programs for e-waste in Australia, particularly televisions. PSA works closely with both state and federal governments along with other industry associations to advance product stewardship in Australia. PSA has contributed to the development of the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement on Televisions and Computers.
Main article: Electronic waste in New Zealand