Regulations, Resources, and Guidance on Recycling Electronic Equipment
Please note: Many of the links below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. This collection is provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to the sites on this list, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.
Used electronics may be considered a waste depending on how they are generated and managed. Waste rules can be found in Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), including:
- Title 30, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 328, Waste Minimization and Recycling
- 30 TAC 330, Municipal Solid Waste
- Industrial Solid Waste and Municipal Hazardous Waste, 30 TAC 335
Are used electronics considered a waste?
Many companies sell their used electronics or send them to a site to be recycled. The recycler recovers usable parts and whole computers for resale or reuse. Leftover material is then sent to another recycler for further demanufacturing (or disassembly). In this process, used electronics become a waste when the recycler decides that the material cannot be reused, demanufactured, or recycled any further. Regulations vary depending on the type of electronics, but electronics or electronic scrap may have the potential to be classified as a waste if they are:
- discarded for disposal or can’t be used for their intended purposes;
- no longer recyclable, or
- not an exempt material
Some electronics, including mercury switches, circuit boards, batteries, computer monitors, televisions, laptops, cellular phones, computer mice, and smoke detectors could test “hazardous,” when determined to be a waste. Under federal and state rules, hazardous waste is subject to certain handling, recycling, and disposal requirements that can be costly. Among other benefits, sending your electronics for reuse or recycling tends to be a less expensive alternative to paying for the cost of hazardous waste disposal.
Universal Waste is a specific type of hazardous waste that is subject to more relaxed standards of accumulation, recordkeeping, and shipping requirements than those of "normal" hazardous wastes. Batteries, fluorescent lights, and mercury-containing equipment (including thermostats) are examples of materials that, if hazardous, could qualify to be regulated as “universal waste” under the universal waste regulations found in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 273 and 30 TAC 335, Subchapter H . Additional requirements for managing universal waste and electronic scrap can be found in the following resources:
How are specific electronics regulated?
Processed scrap metal and shredded circuit boards that are recycled are specifically excluded from solid waste regulations and therefore are not subject to hazardous waste regulations, provided that the metal and circuit boards are stored in containers and free of mercury switches, mercury relays, and nickel-cadmium and lithium batteries. The hazardous waste recycling regulations that cover scrap metal and circuit boards may be found in Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, 261.4(a)(13) and (14).
Batteries that are being reclaimed do not have to be managed as universal waste. For more information, please refer to Hazardous Waste: There is an Easier Way.
Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are the large, bulky glass tubes in older television sets and computer monitors that are rapidly being replaced by flat-panel displays. CRTs may also be managed as universal waste.
Do I need to submit a notification for disposing of electronics?
Prior to discarding waste considered hazardous, a business or recycler may have to obtain an identification number with the TCEQ and the EPA if a facility generates more than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month or more than 220 pounds of Non-hazardous Class 1 waste or more than 2.2 pounds of acute hazardous waste per month. Prior to disposing of electronics, a business would have to conduct a waste determination to demonstrate that the electronics were not hazardous. For more information on classifying waste, making a hazardous waste determination, and generator requirements, please see the following documents:
Household Hazardous Waste: Hazardous waste, including electronics, generated by a household is typically referred to as household hazardous waste (HHW). HHW is exempt from hazardous waste regulations. Thus, a single household that generates used electronics is not subject to the hazardous waste permitting or disposal requirements. Most HHW, including electronics, can be placed in your regular trash. However, reusing and recycling used electronics is the best way to conserve natural resources and reduce environmental impacts. For more information on HHW and collection programs, please refer to TCEQ HHW Resources.
Do I need to submit a notification for accepting electronics?
Facilities that accept electronics from an industrial site may need to submit a Notification for Receiving and Recycling Hazardous or Industrial Waste - Form 0524 to the TCEQ’s Industrial and Hazardous Waste Section. Industrial sites in Texas are manufacturing facilities where materials are changed through processing and/or products are made for wholesale markets.
Facilities accepting electronics material from nonindustrial sources (called municipal sources, e.g. households, offices, and schools) for recycling may need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to operate a Recycling Facility (Form 20049) to the TCEQ’s Municipal Solid Waste Section. You may submit your NOI through the mail or use the new e-permit option through the TCEQ online registration program, STEERS.
Electronics Recycling facilities may be exempt from filing a NOI form if they meet one of the general descriptions below:
- The site is owned or operated by a local government or any agency of the state or federal government. However, this exclusion does not apply if the site is a TV Recycler as defined under the Texas Recycles TVs program (per 30 TAC §328.165(6)).
- The site receives more than 50 percent of its recyclable material from external customers (not affiliated with the facility); meaning, it does not pick up or deliver to its own site more than 50 percent of its recyclable material; receives the material for free (no financial compensation of any sort); and can show that the material received can be recycled in an economical manner.
- The site is a smelter of recyclable metal or a secondary metals recycler affiliated with a smelter (per 30 TAC 328.2).
- The site is owned or operated by, or is affiliated with, a person who holds a permit to dispose of municipal solid waste.
The above listed items provide a general summary of the exemptions. All recycling facilities, including exempt facilities, must comply with the general requirements in 30 TAC 328.3. For additional recycling guidance, please refer to the TCEQ Web page, Recycling: Am I Regulated?
Recycler Guidance for the Texas Recycles Computers and Texas Recycles TVs programs
The Texas Recycles Computers and Texas Recycles TVs Programs require computer and TV manufacturers to offer opportunities for consumers to recycle these electronics. Additionally, there are requirements for electronics recyclers under these two programs. Guidance on recycler requirements and links to the rules can be found on the following Web pages:
Stormwater Authorization for Industrial Activity
If a site’s primary activities and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code fall within certain sectors regulated by TCEQ’s Multi-Sector General Permit for Storm Water (TXR050000), it could be subject to stormwater permitting requirements. The SIC code for scrap and waste recycling facilities is 5093, which is under Sector N of the stormwater permit. However, if all industrial activities and materials are isolated from rain, snow, snowmelt, runoff by storm resistant shelters, or stored indoors, a facility may be eligible to apply for Conditional No Exposure Exclusion. For more information on obtaining a stormwater authorization, please refer to the following Web pages:
- Assistance Tools for Stormwater Permitting
- Storm Water Discharges from Industrial Facilities: Am I Regulated?
Air Regulations and Authorizations
Electronic recycling facilities may also be regulated by the air rules in 30 TAC Chapters 101, 106, and 111. Air contaminants, such as solvent fumes or fine grindings can be considered a nuisance and regulated by 30 TAC §101.4, the nuisance rule.
Recycling operations that include grinding or shredding materials require authorizations under a permit by rule (PBR). A list of all keyword PBRs including grinding metal, soldering, or extruding plastics can be found in the Keyword Index to Permits by Rule. For more information on obtaining an air authorizations, please refer to the following Web pages:
- Compliance Commitment (C2) Site Visit Program
- E-Recycling/Recycling: Compliance Resources
- Electronics Recycling and Waste Reduction
- eCycling (EPA)
- Industrial and Hazardous Waste: Am I Regulated?
- Municipal Solid Waste
Still have questions?
Contact TCEQ’s Small Business and Local Government Assistance (SBLGA) Section:
- Visit the SBLGA Web page at TexasEnviroHelp.org
- Call the SBLGA toll-free hotline number at 1-800-447-2827
- Contact one of our compliance assistance specialists in the TCEQ regional office nearest you.