Electronic waste and electrical products in homes are not currently regulated or banned from landfill disposal in Kentucky. This means that households may legally dispose of electronic equipment, such as home computers and monitors, in their garbage, provided that your garbage collector and landfill will accept it. However, the Division of Waste Management strongly encourages responsible management of electronic equipment through recycling. Electronic waste generated outside of the home is subject to federal and state law and is treated as hazardous waste for specific quantities and conditions.
When is Electronic Waste Treated as Hazardous Waste?
The following Kentucky Revised Statutes are cited as the governing authority:
- KRS 224.1-010 (30)(b) “Hazardous waste” means any discarded material or materials intended to be discarded or substance or combination of such substances intended to be discarded if any form which because of its quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics may cause, or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed;
- KRS 224.46-510 (2) Any person who generates waste in this state shall make a determination as to whether or not such waste is hazardous pursuant to criteria promulgated by the cabinet, and any generator of hazardous waste shall certify that all information required in notices or reports to the cabinet or information provided on the manifest document is factual.
- KRS 224.46-520 (2) The cabinet may prohibit the land disposal of any hazardous wastes. The criteria and list of hazardous waste to be prohibited by the cabinet from land disposal shall be identical to any such criteria and list promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976, as amended, (Public Law 94-580)
Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT)
Computer scrap, particularly the cathode ray tubes (CRTs) that display the video from computer control units, contain significant amounts of leaded glass that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified as hazardous waste. In sufficient volume, this material can pose life-threatening hazards to humans and animals.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976
Businesses that send electronic scrap for disposal are generators of hazardous waste and must follow Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements in compliance with its classification as a small or large quantity generator. If, however, e-scrap is sent out for recycling, it is not considered hazardous waste and likely holds no liability. Businesses still have the obligation to ensure that their scrap is sold or sent to legitimate recyclers, re-users or disposal companies.
Hazardous Materials in Computer Components:
- Lead in the glass of monitors (also known as cathode ray tube [CRT])
- Mercury in flat panel displays (both laptop and stand-alone)
- Lead, chromium, silver, cadmium and mercury in printed circuit boards (varies with make and model)
- Lead, mercury, cadmium and lithium in batteries in units.
- PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in circuit boards from before early 1980s.