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.
Regulations for the management of used electronics can vary depending on who generates the used electronics and how they are managed. These rules can be found in Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code, they include:
- 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
Exemptions from Permitting and Notification
Recycling facilities are generally exempt from the registration or permit requirements in 30 TAC 330 as long as they accept only:
- nonputrescible matter (not capable of rotting);
- source-separated (separated, collected, and transported separately from municipal solid waste) recyclable material; and
- no more than 10 percent of municipal solid waste in each incoming load at their sites, and comply with the recycling rules in 30 TAC §328.3–328.5.
Identical, used-electronic equipment can be regulated differently depending on who generates the material and if the material is declared a waste prior to recycling. Industrial and manufacturing sites in Texas are facilities where products are made for wholesale markets or materials are changed by being processed. Facilities accepting electronics from an industrial site that for disposing have been declared as waste may need to notify the TCEQ’s Industrial and Hazardous Waste Section by filing a Notification for Receiving and Recycling Hazardous or Industrial Waste - Form 0524.
Facilities accepting electronics material from nonindustrial sources (called municipal sources, e.g. households, offices, and schools) for recycling that has not been declared a waste may need to submit Form 20049, Notice of Intent (NOI) to operate a Recycling Facility to the TCEQ’s Municipal Solid Waste Section.
Sites that collect and recycle electronics are exempt from filing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to operate a recycling facility 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.
- 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 recycling metal only, or is a smelter, or is 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; for rule references, regulatory guidance documents, forms, and recordkeeping and reporting requirements, please refer to the TCEQ Web page, Recycling: Am I Regulated?
Regulatory Status of Specific Electronics
Many companies sell used electronics or send them to a site to be recycled. The recycler recovers usable parts and whole computers for resale. 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.
Processed scrap metal and shredded circuit boards being recycled are specifically excluded from solid waste regulations and therefore are not subject to hazardous waste regulation, 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). For more information, search the electronic CFR Web page for the above regulations.
Some electronics, including mercury switches, circuit boards, batteries, computer monitors, televisions, laptops, cellular phones, computer mice, and smoke detectors could test “hazardous,” when called a waste, under federal and state rules. As a hazardous waste, these items would be subject to certain handling, recycling, and disposal requirements. If you are a business disposing of electronics, please see the section below entitled “Regulatory Requirements for Disposal of Electronics.” However, it tends to be less expensive to send used electronics for reuse or recycling than disposal.
Batteries that are a hazardous waste qualify to be regulated as a "universal waste" under the universal waste regulations found in 40 CFR Part 273 and 30 TAC 335, Subchapter H . Batteries that are being reclaimed do not have to be managed as universal waste. However, even though the universal waste regulations provide handlers of universal waste considerably more flexibility in how they are allowed to manage their universal waste (e.g. hazardous waste batteries), under the universal waste rule batteries are still defined as hazardous waste and solid waste. For more information, please refer to Hazardous Waste: There is an Easier Way.
Several exemptions exist depending on what the source is, who generates the material, and how the material is used. For example, used computer equipment generated from a residence is exempt from being a hazardous waste because it comes from a household. Household hazardous waste is limited to those wastes from households that would be hazardous waste if they were not specifically excluded by the federal regulations. For more information on household hazardous waste and collection programs, please refer to TCEQ HHW Resources.
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. There are some additional requirements for recycling CRTs and Mercury Containing Equipment (MCE), scrap metal, and circuit boards that can be found on the following Environmental Protection Agency Web pages:
Regulatory Requirements for Disposal of Electronics
Electronics or electronic parts may have the potential to be classified as hazardous waste due to the toxicity of the metal content if they are:
- discarded for disposal or can’t be used for their intended purposes;
- no longer recyclable, or
- not an exempt material
Any waste that leaches one or more constituents at or above a concentration threshold designated by the EPA could be regulated. For example, electronics recycling materials and certain batteries that contain lead, cadmium, or mercury at or above limits designated by the EPA could potentially be hazardous waste if discarded.
- Prior to discarding material considered hazardous, a business or recycler may have to obtain an identification number with the TCEQ and the EPA. The quantity threshold that triggers this required ID number is when a facility generates more than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month. For more information on classifying waste, making a hazardous waste determination, and generator requirements, please see the following documents:
The Texas Computer Recycling Program requires manufacturers who offer to sell new computer equipment in Texas to provide a program for collecting and recycling consumers’ used computer equipment, free of charge to the consumer at the time of recycling. There are certain requirements in 30 TAC 328 Subchapter I for recyclers under the Texas Computer Equipment Recycling program. The TCEQ maintains the TexasRecyclesComputers.org website with information for manufacturers, consumers, and retailers
Each manufacturer is responsible for adopting and implementing a recovery plan for collecting computer equipment from consumers. Get more information about the Texas Computer-Equipment Recycling Program.
Industrial Activity and Stormwater
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. This stormwater permit is not an individual site-specific permit, but a general permit that regulates multiple types of businesses. The general permit allows point-source discharges of stormwater to leave a site, provided that certain limits are met and a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3) is in place.
The SIC code for general recycling that requires a Notice of Intent (NOI) for authorization is 5093, which is found in Sector N of the permit and is subject to stormwater requirements. If all industrial activities and materials are isolated from rain, snow, snowmelt, runoff by storm resistant shelters, or stored indoors, you may be eligible to apply for Conditional No Exposure Exclusion. For more information on obtaining authorization under this permit, please refer to the following Web pages:
- Storm Water Discharges from Industrial Facilities: Am I Regulated?
- Assistance Tools for Stormwater Permitting
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. Through exposure, these air contaminants can adversely affect human health or welfare, animal life, vegetation, or property, or interfere with the normal use and enjoyment of animal life, vegetation, or property. These contaminants are 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 PBR is the state air authorization for activities that produce more than a de minimis (too insignificant to be worthy of concern) level of emissions, but less than those that require further authorizations through other permitting options. A PBR allows certain facilities to operate within the requirements of the rules without going through the formal permitting process. The facility must first ensure that it can meet the general conditions of the PBR found in 30 TAC §106.4 before pursuing this authorization. If you cannot meet the requirements of 30 TAC §106.4, and the requirements for the specific PBR, you must apply for an individual air permit. A list of all keyword PBRs including grinding metal, soldering, or extruding plastics can be found in the Keyword Index to Permits by Rule.
- Compliance Commitment (C2) Site Visit Program
- E-Recycling/Recycling: Compliance Resources
- Electronics Recycling and Waste Reduction
- Hazardous and Industrial Waste
- Municipal Solid Waste
Where can I find more information and assistance?
The TCEQ's Small Business and Local Government Assistance Section offers free, confidential help to small businesses and local governments working to comply with state environmental regulations. Call us at 800-447-2827 or visit our Web page at TexasEnviroHelp.org.