U.S. Federal Legislation


Existing Legislation and Policies that Apply to E-Waste

Final Rules on Cathode Ray Tubes and Discarded Mercury-Containing Equipment
This portion of the U.S. EPA web site provides information regarding these two rules, which were proposed in the same action in 2003. In order to expedite the regulatory process, the actions were separated and each now stands alone.

A cathode ray tube (CRT) is the glass video display component of an electronic device (usually a computer or television monitor). The Cathode Ray Tubes final rule streamlines management requirements for recycling of used CRTs and glass removed from CRTs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The amendments exclude these materials from the RCRA definition of solid waste if certain conditions are met. The rule is intended to encourage recycling and reuse of used CRTs and CRT glass. Used CRTs exported for recycling must comply with requirements that are specified in detail in 40 CFR 261.39(a)(5). The U.S. EPA site linked to above outlines these requirements.

The Discarded Mercury-Containing Equipment Final Rule adds mercury-containing equipment to the federal list of universal wastes regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations. Handlers of universal wastes are subject to less stringent standards for storing, transporting, and collecting these wastes. EPA believes this will lead to better management of this equipment and will facilitate compliance with hazardous waste requirements.

U.S. EPA eCycling Regulations/Standards page: Consult this page regarding special exemptions from federal hazardous waste rules for circuit boards. This page also includes information on the disposal of CRTs and other electronics that test "hazardous". For the complete federal hazardous waste requirements for generators, consult 40 CFR Parts 260-262.

See also EPA's Regulatory Program for "E-Waste" (PDF) and Export of Used & Scrap Electronics: What You Need to Know (PDF).

Executive Order (EO) 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, was signed on October 5, 2009. EO 13514 introduces new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions management requirements, expands water reduction requirements for federal agencies, and addresses waste diversion, local planning, sustainable buildings, environmental management, and electronics stewardship. This executive order set as a target procurement preference for EPEAT-registered electronic products, and called for specific management strategies to improve sustainability including employing environmentally sound practices for the disposition of all agency excess or surplus electronic products. This executive order called for US General Services Administration (GSA), the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the National Strategy on Electronics Stewardship. The National Strategy, released in the summer of 2011, tasked GSA to develop policies for federal agencies to responsibly purchase, manage, and recycle electronics. On March 1, 2012, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson announced new guidelines banning all federal agencies from disposing of electronic waste in landfills. The policy will ensure that the federal government is leading by example and that all of its electronics are managed effectively in the disposal process. The policy will also direct electronics to certified recyclers, creating more opportunities for the e-waste industry. That policy directs federal agencies to reuse electronics to the maximum extent possible and then direct non-functioning products to certified e-waste recyclers. As electronics reach the end of their utility, asset managers will offer these products to be reused at other agencies, schools, state and local governments, or offer them for sale. Federal agencies are being banned from disposing of these materials in landfills or incinerators, and instead they will now send them to third-party certified e-waste recyclers—under R2 or eStewards—when reuse is not an option. Additionally, recipients of used government electronics are being encouraged to follow the same reuse and certified recycling standards as the federal government.

Pending or Proposed U.S. Federal Legislation

H.R. 2791: Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) of 2013
This bill was introducted in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress on 7/23/13. From the press release announcing the bill's introduction by Reps. Mike Thompson (CA) and Gene Green (TX), RERA "creates a new section in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that prohibits the export of 'restricted electronic waste' from the U.S. to countries that are not members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Union (EU). Restricted electronic equipment refers to any equipment that contains specific toxic materials at levels greater than those deemed non- hazardous by the EPA. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that many of the developing nations that receive e-waste from the United States do not have the capacity or facilities to safely recycle and dispose of these used electronics.

Under the legislation, tested and working equipment can still be exported to promote reuse. Products could also still be exported for warranty repair or due to recall. However, consumer electronic equipment, parts, and materials that contain toxic chemicals could not be exported to nations outside of OECD member countries or the EU. This legislative approach is consistent with the e-waste policies adopted by most other developed nations via international treaties, such as the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment.

H.R. 2791 also creates a research program at the Department of Energy to help assess the recycling and recovery of Rare Earth Metals from electronics. This provision will help ensure the proper collection and recycling of precious and strategic metals."

See also a recent article in Waste Management World (Vol. 14, Issue 5) by Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of Cascade Asset Management and a member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, which discusses myths associated with this bill and explains why the bill is receiving widespread support from the recycling industry, electronics manufacturers, retails, and environmental groups: Myth Busting: The U.S. Responsible Electronics Recycling Act.

This bill should not be confused with H.R. 2284, introduced on 6/22/11 in the 112th Congress, which was also known as the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act. That bill died (i.e. was referred to committee but was not enacted). See http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr2284.

S. 1397: Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act
This bill proposed to authorize the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to award grants for electronic device recycling research, development, and demonstration projects, and for other purposes. Introduced 7/06/09 in the U.S. Senate. On 12/10/09, the bill was updated by the Committee on Environment and Public Works. On 7/21/2011 the bill was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. This bill died (i.e. was not enacted--see http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/s1397).

H.R. 1580: The Electronic Waste Research and Development Act

This bill proposed to authorize the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to award grants for electronic device recycling research, development, and demonstration projects, and for other purposes. Introduced 3/18/09 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Passed the House (4/22/09) and wasreceived by the Senate (as of 4/23/09). The above link provides the full text of the bill and outlines bill actions. This bill died (i.e. was not enacted). It passed the House, but did not pass the Senate--see http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/hr1580.

The following are links to testimony provided before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology during a hearing on "Electronic Waste: Investing in Research and Innovation to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle," 2/11/09:

If you would like to suggest laws or policies not mentioned above for inclusion on this page, please contact Joy Scrogum.