In the United States, some sources of e-waste that contain potentially unsafe materials (such as the lithium used in CRT television sets) are classified as “hazardous waste”. Other types of e-waste that do not contain such unsafe materials (like common computer circuit boards) are not classified as hazardous waste and can be sent for recycling.
The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) prevents hazardous waste to be exported from the United States to developing countries without their consent. However, the EPA has passed regulations that exempt numerous types of e-waste from being defined as hazardous waste, deeming the export rules from the RCRA to no longer apply to many toxic discarded electronic hardware. Thus, most e-waste produced in the United States is able to be sent to the informal “recycling” markets in developing countries, where the e-waste is typically shredded or burned.
Many states in the United states have passed e-waste laws that are more strict than that at the federal level. Currently, 25 states have enacted legislation regarding the issue of e-waste. These states include California, Indiana, Texas, and Washington. Other states like Ohio, Florida, and Nevada still have not passed legislation specifically addressing the issue of disposing e-waste.
Members of Congress have proposed the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA). This bill would prevent the US from exporting hazardous e-waste to developing countries. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.
The following image illustrates the states (highlighted in yellow) that have passed legislation restricting the disposal methods for discarded electronic objects: