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California Eyes Upgrade To E-Waste Program
CalRecycle graphic

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 include: Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Televisions, Monitors, Devices; Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Televisions and Monitors; Laptops with LCD screens, including most tablets; Plasma Televisions; and Portable DVD Players with LCD Screens. (Screens greater than four inches diagonally.)

Proposed Covered Electronic Devices include 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; and 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.