In New York, the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act (pdf) (Environmental Conservation Law, Article 27, Title 26), creates electronics recycling programs effective April 1, 2011. The new law requires free and convenient recycling of electronic waste be provided to most "consumers" (see definition below) in the state, including households, many small businesses and many not-for-profit corporations. The State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has set up a detailed website providing information about this new law. As discussed below, other states are taking similar steps to deal with this new form of waste. 

New York’s e-Waste Law

The new law affects consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of "covered electronic equipment" (CEE), as well as certain waste recycling, consolidation, collection and management facilities. One of the notable requirements under the new law is that beginning April 1, 2011, manufacturers of CEE are required to take back from consumers a wide range of electronic waste.

Who is a "consumer" and what equipment is covered under the law?

A "consumer" is an individual, business, corporation, limited partnership, not-for-profit corporation, the state, a public corporation, public school, school district, private or parochial school or board of cooperative educational services or governmental entity located in New York State, except when involved in a wholesale transaction between a distributor and retailer.

"Covered electronic equipment" includes:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Cathode Ray Tubes
  • Small Scale Servers
  • Computer Peripherals (Computer peripherals also include any cable, cord, or wiring permanently affixed to or incorporated into such product.)
    • Monitors
    • Electronic Keyboards
    • Electronic Mice or Similar Pointing Devices
    • Facsimile Machines, document scanners, and printers (only those intended for use with a computer and weighing less than 100 lbs.)
  • Small Electronic Equipment (Small electronic equipment also include any cable, cord, or wiring permanently affixed to or incorporated into such product.)
    • VCRs
    • Digital Video Recorders
    • Portable Digital Music Players
    • DVD Players
    • Digital Converter Boxes
    • Cable or Satellite Receivers
    • Electronic or Video Game Consoles

"Covered electronic equipment" does not include such things as cameras, portable or stationary radios, household appliances, monitoring and control instrument or system, telephones of any type; portable digital assistant or similar device, calculator, global positioning system (GPS) receiver or similar navigation device, a server other than a small-scale server, a cash register or retail self checkout system, stand-alone storage product intended for use in industrial, and other equipment.

What is the cost?

For the basic services required under the new law, which include acceptance of CEE, for-profit businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees and not-for-profit organizations with fewer than 75 full-time employees may not be charged for the collection, handling, recycling, or reuse of CEE. Larger organizations may be charged for these services. (Full-time employment is not defined under the law.) Note, however, the new law generally does not affect contracts consumers had with manufactures entered into prior to January 1, 2011.

In addition, any consumer may be charged for "premium services." "Premium services" are any services above and beyond the reasonably convenient acceptance methods defined in the new law. These include equipment and data security services, refurbishment for reuse by the consumer, and other custom services as may be determined by the Department of Environmental Conservation such as at-home collection (other than mail back programs), data wiping, specialized packing and preparation for collection, etc.

Does the law require e-waste to be recycled?

Not yet. However, beginning January 1, 2012, businesses, municipalities, and subdivisions of the state, including their waste collection company or service, will no longer be able to collect electronic waste for disposal, or dispose of any electronic waste in a landfill or waste-to-energy facility. A similar rule goes into effect for individuals and households on January 1, 2015.

Will recycling be performed in a secure manner?

No. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s website warns:

Consumers should erase all personal and confidential data on their electronic equipment before sending it for recycling or reuse. Reformatting your hard drive or deleting files does not destroy your data. The resources listed on the right side of this page under "Offsite links," provide guidance on data wiping, etc., however, there might be other data security service resources and options available. Please note, the Department is not responsible for the contents of any offsite webpages referenced. These links are provided as a public service only (see disclaimer on the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act main page).

This means that consumers need to take appropriate steps to safeguard data before submitting their CEE to be recycled under this program. Under New York’s new law, the manual for electronic products that contain internal memory capabilities, such as a hard drive which could retain personal or other confidential information, must describe for consumers how they can destroy such data before surrendering the products for recycling or reuse.

Activity in Other States

As reported in the BNA Privacy and Security Law report, a pending law in New Jersey (A. 2975) "would require businesses and government agencies to destroy personal data stored on a digital copy machine before disposing of it." The State’s Attorney General would be able to seek penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations. Similar laws are being considered in NevadaFlorida, Connecticut and Oregon.