Skip to main content

Electronic Waste

Tabletop of neatly organized electronics
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Electronic Waste

Michigan’s electronic recycling law passed in 2008 to address concerns about the large number of consumer electronics that were entering the market and the waste stream. These electronics may contain harmful toxins, many with reuse potential. The law was implemented to properly manage these devices and help protect the public from potential release of these toxins.

Part 173 aims to protect human health and natural resources across the state through sustainable materials management practices. The electronic recycling law is an extended producer responsibility style law, which means it places responsibility on the manufacturers of electronic devices to support proper management of these materials.

Through this program, the state’s goals are to:

  • Keeping harmful toxins out of the water
  • Decreasing demand for harvesting virgin material
  • Diverting commodities from landfills
  • Promoting recycling in Michigan

*Businesses focused materials are regulated as Universal Wastes under Part 111 of Act 451, as amended.

Green recycle symbol with three arrows pointing at each other to form a triangleElectronics Reuse and Recycling

Donating old or unwanted electronic devices

  • Before donating or recycling your old computer or other electronic device, make sure that the data in it is completely deleted. Reformatting the hard drive or deleting files may not be enough. You need to completely destroy the data on your hard drive. The U.S. EPA has two fact sheets developed in 2006 that provide information about donating and a list of free software you can use to delete information from your computer.

  • Many electronics contain hazardous materials such as lead in solder, cadmium in circuit boards and mercury in batteries. Most older computer display screens and televisions contain cathode ray tubes (CRT's). CRT's contain leaded glass to protect the user from the x-rays inside the tubes. Lead is a hazardous material that can cause environmental and health damage if not managed safely. Lead in CRT's cause computers to be considered hazardous waste when disposed by regulated generators in Michigan. Residents are exempt from hazardous waste regulations. Regulated or not, Michigan residents are concerned that their old computer will end up in their local landfill or municipal solid waste incinerator with the potential of leaching or emitting lead and other heavy metals into the water or air. This has caused many communities in Michigan and around the country to hold electronic waste collection events where materials are gathered for shipment to recyclers who dismantle, sort and recycle the various glass, plastic and metal components.

    There is still much we do not know about what is actually hazardous in all of our electronic tools and toys. Explore these webpages to find information to help you manage your used electronics, whether you are a business generating regulated hazardous waste or a resident with a used computer or cell phone.

Managing electronic waste can be as simple as remembering the 3 Rs:  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

  • Buying Environmentally Friendly IT equipment:  The United States Environmental Protection Agency sponsored a new purchasing program for buying more environmentally friendly IT equipment.  Called the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool or EPEAT (www.epeat.net), "EPEAT is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products."

  • If donating your electronics or selling for reuse, keep in mind that all data should be properly removed (this means more than deleting your files) and the quicker you move the equipment on, the more valuable it is to the next owner.

    eBay Rethink. On this site you can find information, tools and solutions that make it easy - and even profitable - to find new users for idle computers and electronics, and responsibly recycle unwanted products.

    Recycle Bank from the Consumer Electronics Association:  Recycle Bank is an online resource that helps meet consumers' desire to be both tech-savvy and environmentally-friendly.  It contains information on where to find recycling sites, smart purchasing guidelines for consumer electronics and how to be an environmentally-friendly consumer of electronics.

  • CHOOSING A RECYCLER: Currently there is no state or federal certification program for electronic waste recyclers. Recycling could mean anything from collecting electronics for refurbishment to dismantling materials and processing into commodities.  Following are some documents that could help you find out about services provided by recycling companies that will fit your needs and ensure that your waste electronics are handled properly.

    Michigan Recycled Materials Market Directory. This on-line directory contains lists of recycling companies ranging from drums and barrels to tires and electronics.

    Electronics Recyclers Listed in the Michigan Recycled Materials Market Directory

    U.S. EPA approved CRT recycling exporters. This website contains the list of U.S EPA approved exporters of CRTs destined for recycling per the CRT rule.

    Federal Electronics Challenge, Checklist for the Selection of Electronics Reuse and Recycling Services. This checklist includes questions you may want to ask a recycler prior to contracting with them. You will want to know some basic information when securing an electronics recycler, regardless of size of your operation. The Federal Electronics Challenge (FEC) is a voluntary program that encourages government agencies to manage electronics waste in an environmentally responsible way. FEC has put together this checklist to assist in selecting an electronics recycler that best fits your needs.

    BUSINESS-SPONSORED COMPUTER RECOVERY PROGRAMS: Following are links to manufacturer sponsored takeback and computer recycling programs. Ask your computer supplier, distributor or brand owner to find out if a takeback program is available.