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Electronic waste, e-waste and e-scrap are all terms used to describe unwanted electronic products. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Americans own approximately 24 electronic products per household. With a constant supply of newer, faster electronic products on the market, older models are continually replaced. As a result, electronics have become one of the fastest growing waste streams. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that of the 2.25 million tons of televisions, cell phones and computer products that were disposed in 2007, approximately 80 percent ended up in landfills. All the gold, copper, silver, leaded glass and other recyclable materials used in those products was buried instead of being recovered and reused.

E-scrap includes more than just televisions, cell phones and computer products. The terms also includes DVD players, VCRs, video cameras, digital cameras, gaming consoles, stereos, answering machines, photocopiers/scanners and printers. E-scrap has become an issue of national importance, not only because of the amount produced, but also because of the various toxic materials and heavy metals located inside these items. Electronics can contain lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc, copper, silver, gold and brominates flame retardants. When disposed of carelessly, the toxic materials inside the electronics can be harmful to both people and the environment. The toxic materials can seep out and contaminate our soil, water and air if that product gets crushed or improperly incinerated.

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Managing the Waste

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources recognized the e-scrap management problems and took steps to reduce the risks to human health and the environment. In February 2006, the department organized the Electronic Scrap Stakeholder Workgroup to get input on what direction Missouri should take to manage e-scrap. The workgroup members include private, public and nonprofit recycles, federal, state and local governments, manufacturers, environmental groups and retail organizations. The workgroup, which is still active, developed a three pronged strategy called e-cycle Missouri.

E-cycle Missouri is a program designed to provide the public with the how and where information needed to recycle electronics. It provides electronic equipment recyclers and demanufacturers with best management practices for collecting, processing and transporting e-scrap in Missouri in a way that protects the environment. It also help individuals and businesses choose a recycler that best meets their needs by creating a tiered registration program for Missouri e-cycling businesses.

Missouri Laws and Regulations

While most electronics from residences can legally be discarded with household trash, the department recommends exploring other options, like recycling or donating. Businesses, charities, non-profits, schools, churches and public and governmental agencies in Missouri cannot legally discard certain electronics in Missouri landfills. They are required by federal and state law to properly manage certain unwanted electronics. Electronics classified as a hazardous waste must be regulated as a hazardous waste under the Missouri Revised Statutes, Sections 260.350 to 260.430, RSMo, also known as the "Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Law." For more information, please contact the Hazardous Waste Program's Compliance and Enforcement Section at 573-751-7560 or 800-361-4827.

The “Manufacturer Responsibility and Consumer Convenience Equipment Collection and Recovery Act,” Sections 260.1050 to 260.1101, RSMo, was signed into law in 2008. The law assigned many duties to computer equipment manufacturers, retailers and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The department organized the Electronics Recovery Rulemaking Workgroup to advise the department on the level of detail needed in the rule.

The resulting Electronics Scrap Management rule, which is located in the Code of State Regulations at 10 CSR 25-19.010, became effective April 30, 2010. This rule clarifies the responsibilities of computer equipment manufacturers, retailers, recyclers and the department for providing recycling or reuse of covered computer equipment at no additional cost to households or home businesses. For more information on the Electronics Scrap Management rule requirements, please visit the following website or contact the Hazardous Waste Program by email.

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