Glossary of Terms

Advanced Recovery Fee (ARF):

A fee paid by a customer when he or she buys an electronic product. Once the consumer has used up the product and/or no longer wants it, he or she will take the product back to the retailer or manufacturer who will then use the ARF in order to dispose of the electronic product. California is the only state that currently mandates ARF; other states use the extended manufacturer responsibility.

Alkaline Batteries:

Alkaline batteries are a type of power cell dependent upon the reaction between zinc and manganese. The alkaline battery gets its name because it has an alkaline electrolyte of potassium hydroxide. Alkaline batteries have a higher energy density and longer shelf-life than zinc batteries.


Is a lightweight, silver-white, metallic element that makes up approximately seven percent of the Earth’s crust. Aluminum is used in a variety of ways, most commonly in the manufacture of soft drink cans. It can be recycled through curbside collection, buyback centers, or drop-off centers. This includes aluminum cans, pie plates, and aluminum foil.


Substances that are known to be capable of promoting or causing cancer in humans or animals.

Cathode ray tube (CRT):

Devices used to create images in the form of light on a screen. Old televisions and monitors were made using this technology, which contains a vacuum tube, electron gun, and a fluorescent screen. CRTs are environmentally hazardous because they contain large amounts of lead, which is hazardous to the environment.

Circuit Boards [Also known as Printed Wiring Boards (PWB)]:

Components which use conductive paths or copper traces and tracks to connect electronic components and make things like computers, cell phones, and all other electronic devices possible.

Closed loop manufacturing:

A manufacturing system that maximizes efficiency, uses recycled materials, reuses or recycles waste or scrap materials, utilizes reusable energy, and has very sustainable operations. The goal of closed loop manufacturing is to have the waste become the feedstock for new products therefore, eventually requiring no outside resources.

Commingled Recyclables:

A mixture of several recyclable materials in one container.


The cathode ray tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen, with internal or external means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam, used to form images in the form of light emitted from the fluorescent screen. The image may represent electrical waveforms (oscilloscope), pictures (television, computer monitor).

Curbside Collection:

A program where recyclable materials are collected at the curb, often from special containers, to be taken to various processing facilities.

Data Destruction / Data Wiping:

The irreversible removal of data from a media form. This can have many applications and methods, however the goal of removing data is the same.


Chemical contaminants that are created during combustion processes such as incineration, forest fires, backyard burning, and more. Dioxins can cause harm to humans and can be ingested or inhaled, then stored in fatty tissue.

Drop-Off Centers:

Locations that accept materials that have been separated. Such centers receive donated materials only and do not pay cash for the materials. In the County of Santa Barbara , the commodities collected at drop-off centers include newspapers, magazines, office paper (white and colored), cardboard, glass, aluminum, bi-metal cans (tin), scrap metals, #1 PETE plastics, opaque and transparent #2 HDPE plastics, and #3 through #7 hard plastics.

Electronic Waste (ewaste, e-waste, e-scrap):

The definition of electronic waste vary depending on the country defining the term. In the United States , the term "e-waste" refers to electronics such as computers, televisions, video game consoles, monitors, VCR/DVD players, cell phones, printers and scanners, fax machines, and other electrical devices that operate using a program and PWB board. In Europe and Australia , “ewaste” is defined as anything that has a plug, which also includes the American definition of the term, as well as items such as refrigerators, washing machines.

End of Life (EOL):

When a product is at its EOL, it can no longer be used for any purpose and should go to materials recovery.

End of Use (EOU):

This is when a product is no longer being used for the purpose for which it was purchased, but is still useful in some way.


Short for electronic waste. The term e-waste is applied to all waste caused by discarding electronic devices, especially consumer electronics. E-waste is a major concern in areas of personal computing and wireless devices that are quickly discarded by consumers. The lifespan of these electronics are short-lived due to rapid technological advances and lower costs to purchase each year. Consumers generally buy new instead of reusing because their electronic device quickly becomes obsolete or it may be cheaper to purchase new.

Ferrous Metal:

Ferrous is an adjective used to indicate the presence of iron. Ferrous metals include steel and pig iron (which contain a few percent of carbon) and alloys of iron with other metals (such as stainless steel).

Fluorescent Light Tube:

A fluorescent lamp or fluorescent tube is a gas-discharge lamp that uses electricity to excite mercury vapour in argon or neon gas, resulting in a plasma that produces short-wave ultraviolet light. This light then causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light.

Hard Drive:

A hard disk drive (HDD), commonly referred to as a hard drive, hard disk, or fixed disk drive is a non-volatile storage device which stores digitally encoded data.

Hazardous Waste:

A solid, liquid, or gaseous substance which, because of its source or measurable characteristics, is classified under state or federal law as potentially dangerous and is subject to special handling, shipping, and disposal requirements.

Heavy Metals:

Those metals (elements with high density, malleability, and electrical and thermal conductivity) that have high specific gravity and high atomic mass, such as lead, cadmium, zinc, copper, silver, and mercury. These may be found in the waste stream as part of discarded items such as batteries, lighting fixtures, colorants and inks.

Informal processing/Informal recycling:

Informal processing and recycling of electronics occurs when computers and other electronics are taken apart by individuals who do not use proper health and safety precautions and therefore place themselves as well as their surrounding environment in danger through exposure to unsafe materials and chemicals (acids, mercury, lead, toxic fumes, etc.). The toxicities of materials within an electronic product are not the only hazards with informal recycling. The acids used to extract materials, toxic or non-toxic, can often have the greatest environmental impact. This was the focal point of the 60 Minutes video titled "Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste".

Integrated Solid Waste Management:

Practice of using several alternative waste management techniques to manage and dispose of specific components of the municipal waste stream. Waste management alternatives include source reduction, recycling, composting, energy recovery, and landfilling.

Lead Acid Batteries:

Lead-acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable battery. Despite having low energy-to-weight ratio and a correspondingly low energy-to-volume ratio, their ability to supply high surge currents means that the cells maintain a relatively large power-to-weight ratio.


Substances that can cause genetic mutations or changes in DNA sequences in cells. Most carcinogens are also mutagenic.

Nickel Cadmium Batteries:

The nickel-cadmium battery (NiCad) is a popular type of rechargeable battery using nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium as electrodes. Their small size and high rate discharge capacity made nickel cadmium a practical choice for portable power tools.


Toxic substances which damage the nervous system.

Non Ferrous Metal:

The term non-ferrous is used to indicate metals other than iron and alloys that do not contain an appreciable amount of iron.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM):

The initial company that manufactures products or components that are purchased by another company and retailed under that purchasing company's brand name.


A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, traces, which are etched from copper sheets and laminated onto a non-conductive board.

Perceived obsolescence:

Perceived obsolescence is when a product is still usable and functioning, but it has simply fallen out of style and fashion, and it is therefore considered to be obsolete by consumers.


A peripheral is a piece of computer hardware that is added to a host computer or a device that is hooked up externally to a computer via a port such as a USB port. Typical examples include joysticks, printers and scanners, mice and keyboards.


Polyethylene Terephthalate - PET is commonly used for Fizzy drink containers, water bottles and salad trays.

Planned obsolescence:

A decision made by a manufacturer to make a product last only a certain amount of time. By ensuring failure of a product, the consumer is encouraged to purchase an updated product, proving profits for the manufacturer.

Printer Cartridges:

A printer cartridge is a replaceable component that provides ink or toner for the physical image on the paper or surface to be printed on


Polyvinyl Chloride - PVC is commonly used for pipes, fittings, window and door frames and automotive parts.

Radio frequency identification (RFID):

RFID tags can be incorporated into a product, animal or person for the purposes of identification or tracking. Examples include the I-Pass used for automatic payment on toll roads and the microchips used for identifying pets. RFID tags have been proposed to help gather data on computers and other electronics that are collected for recycling. However, the average age of items dropped off at collection events is 10+ years, so you would have to wait a long time for your RFID tag on such equipment to be effective for supplying information.


Recycling is the reprocessing of old materials into new products, with the aims of preventing the waste of potentially useful resources., reducing the consumption of fresh raw materials, reducing energy usage, reducing air and water pollution by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production.


The process of extending the life of a product and re-using old electronics; some products may require a software, not a hardware, change in order to be refurbished.


Reuse is a term for using an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and new-life reuse where it is used for a new function.


In information technology, a server is an application or device that performs services for connected clients as part of a client-server architecture. Server computers are devices designed to run such an application or applications, often for extended periods of time with minimal human direction and maintenance.


Material considered worthless, unnecessary or offensive that is usually thrown away. In common usage, it is a synonym for garbage, rubbish or refuge.


Waste is an unwanted or undesired material or substance. It is also referred to as rubbish or junk depending upon the type of material and the regional terminology.

Waste Stream:

The total waste generated by all contributors (households, industry, government) in a particular area (city, county, state).

Zero Waste:

The concept of recycling all products and using 100% efficient systems to manufacture and use a product. Rather than throwing materials away at the end of their life, the waste is converted as feedstock into another production stream.

Zinc Batteries:

Zinc batteries are a type of power cell which contain an acidic electrolyte they are the same nominal voltages and physical size of an alkaline batteries. The batteries are packaged in a zinc can that serves as both a container and anode.