The Management of E-Waste

California eRecycling Program
California has implemented the nation’s first eRecycling program to offset the costs of collecting and recycling certain electronic products at the end of their useful lives. Retailers are obligated to meet the following requirements:

  • Collect an electronic waste recycling fee at the retail point of sale on covered products.
  • Show the fee on a customer’s receipt.
  • Remit collected fees to the State for use in offsetting the cost of recycling covered products.

The State of California encourages retailers to provide consumers guidance on how and where to recycle their unwanted electronic products by using information available through the states website.

What Products are Covered by the Fee?
Covered electronic wastes are video display devices with a screen size larger than 4 inches. They include:

  • Televisions
  • Computer monitors that contain a cathode ray tube (CRT)
  • Laptop computers
  • Liquid crystal display (LCD) computer monitors
  • Plasma and LCD televisions
  • Portable DVD players

Covered Electronic Devices (CEDs)
A “covered electronic device” (CED) is an electronic device that is covered by the Electronic Waste Recycling Act. The purchaser of a CED pays a fee at the time of purchase, which is used to pay collectors and recyclers of CEDs that are no longer wanted. The law defines a CED as a “a video display device containing a screen greater than 4 inches, measured diagonally, that is identified in the regulations adopted by” DTSC. Any video display device with a screen greater than four inches in size that fits into one of the following categories is a CED:

  • Cathode ray tube containing devices (CRT devices)
  • Cathode ray tubes (CRTs)
  • Computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes
  • Laptop computers with liquid crystal display (LCD)
  • LCD containing desktop monitors
  • Televisions containing cathode ray tubes
  • Televisions containing liquid crystal display (LCD) screens
  • Plasma televisions
  • Portable DVD players with LCD screens

Electronic Devices
DTSC’s regulations define “electronic device” very broadly as “any electronic device that is identified as hazardous waste.” Some kinds of electronic devices are “covered electronic devices” (see the following section), but many more are not. Below are examples of some common electronic devices; this is by no means a complete list.

  • CRT devices including older televisions and computer monitors
  • LCD desktop computer monitors and laptop computers
  • LCD televisions
  • Plasma televisions
  • Portable DVD players with LCD screens
  • Cash registers and oscilloscopes containing CRTs
  • Computers
  • Computer keyboards and other peripherals
  • Telephones, cell phones, and answering machines
  • Stereo equipments, radios, tape and CD players/recorders, phonographs
  • Video cassette recorders and calculators
  • Microwaves

Alianza specializes in the environmentally safe and socially responsible dismantling of electronic waste as defined by the State of California eRecycling Program. All material sent to Alianza is nearly 100% recycled into 3 main commodities: metals, plastic and glass. Maximum commodity return, NO electronics are placed in landfills and nothing is illegally exported to other nations.


  • Televisions
  • Monitors
  • Laptops
  • Plasmas
  • LCD’s
  • Printers
  • Fax Machines
  • Key Boards
  • Mice
  • Stereo Equipment
  • Network Equipment


  • Servers
  • Telecom Equipment
  • Cell Phones
  • DVD Players
  • Copy Machines
  • All Business/Office Electronics
  • Medical Equipment with NO BIO
  • Hazards
  • White Goods
  • Light Bulbs
  • Batteries


Alianza tracks all e-waste entering its facilities through a unique bar code tracking system capable of locating e-waste at all stages from receiving reports, to reconciliation reports, to downstream vendors. This assures that all e-waste received by Alianza is 100% recycled and traceable. This “point to point” tracking method ensures that e-waste does not end up in the hands of other companies, local landfills, and is not illegally exported to other nations. Certificates of Destruction are issued on all e-waste recycled Alianza for recycling, thus creating a level of comfort for clients knowing that their e-waste is being disposed of lawfully and ethically. Video Verification of e-waste destruction is yet another service that Alianza offers its clients, providing additional assurance that their confidential or proprietary information will be 100% destroyed.

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, electronic discards, or e-waste, is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream.  In addition, some researchers estimate that nearly 75 percent of old electronics are in storage, in part because of the uncertainty of how to properly dispose of these items.

As technology quickly evolves and new products are outdated almost as soon as they are available for purchase, the need for proper and safe disposal of e-waste is apparent.  If products are still in working order or need minor repairs, they should be donated to a school, library, charity or church.  If they are broken and need to be disposed of, there are several disposal options in San Diego County – do not place e-waste with your household trash.

Certain materials, particularly metals, in electronic devices can be salvaged and recycled, and proper handling of e-waste ensures that no harmful materials such as lead will contaminate our landfills or water supply.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board has launched an effort to create a “Zero Waste California.”  The campaign asks all Californians to engage in activities to create more sustainable homes, offices and communities, by utilizing products that can be reused, recycled or repaired.  If we all work together on this effort, we can significantly reduce the waste that goes into our landfills.

The Problem with Electronics:

Not Designed For Recycling
Most electronic products are not designed with the end-of-life stage of the product in mind. Designers focus on the manufacturing of the productof course, but they generally ignore the realities of how the product will be handled when it’s discarded. They are clearly not thinking about how the products could be recycled.

There are two ways that products are not designed for recycling:

  • choosing hard-to-recycle materials, and
  • designing products so they are hard to take apart.

Hard to Recycle Materials
The materials used in electronics are the biggest challenge for recycling. While manufacturers will tell us that their products are “completely” recyclable, the toxic materials in these products actually make it impossible to recycle them back into electronic products.

Here are some of the challenges these materials pose:

  • CRT glass. Cathode Ray Tube TVs and monitors contain four to eight pounds of lead, mostly in the glass of the CRT. This glass can only either go into a lead smelter (which uses a thermal process to recover the lead) or goes into “glass-to-glass” recycling – to a manufacturer who takes old CRT glass and makes new CRTs out of it. But it costs money to send glass to a smelter, and the shrinking market for CRTs has put many glass-to-glass recycling operations out of business. Dealing responsibly with CRT glass is one of the recyclers’ biggest challenges.
  • Plastics. Plastics comprise a large volume of most electronic products. But most of them have toxic additives, either brominated flame retardants or PVC, which make them too contaminated to recycle into new electronic products. Some of the plastics can be “downcycled” – recycled into lower grade product, like deck furniture, composite decking material. A lot of the pastics are used as aggregate in road building.

Hard to Take Apart
Recyclers typically do some amount of product disassembly as the first step in the recycling process, at a minimum to remove the toxic components (mercury-containing parts, batteries, circuit boards, toner). But many products are not designed to be easily disassembled, using glue instead of fasteners, using, a whole range of screw sizes in one product (making the recycler use many different screwdrivers to remove them), making it hard to find fasteners, etc.

Case Study: LCD TVs Are Not Designed For Recycling

  • The LCD TV is perhaps the “poster child” for how electronics are not designed with recycling in mind, because of both material selection and physical design.
  • Most LCD TVs use mercury lamps to light the screen. An LCD TV will have typically 20 long, thin, fragile mercury lamps running from side to side, throughout the panel. Mercury is very toxic at very small amounts. So a responsible recycler would want to remove these mercury lamps before putting the rest of the device in a shredder or doing other processing that might lead to mercury exposure of recycling workers.
  • But to get at the mercury lamps inside a flat panel TV, you must disassemble the entire TV first, a process that takes a long time – much longer than it would take you to disassemble a CRT TV. So as a result, some recyclers simply toss the whole thing in the shredder, most certainly exposing their workers to mercury.
  • The “glass” in the LCD screen is made up of a layer of many kinds of liquid crystals. The liquid crystals are one of the most expensive materials in the TV. Can the LCD glass get recycled, to recover the liquid crystals? No, the “recommended” method of disposal of liquid crystals is incineration.

Additional Resources