How to Locate Reputable E-Waste Recyclers

How to Locate Reputable Recyclers


In 2005, it was estimated that 2.6 million tons of e-waste existed in the U.S.; only 12% was recycled. One of the biggest misconceptions companies have is that they overestimate the value of their old electronic equipment and underestimate the volume. As better methods of electronic recycling are developed, improved markets are established and e-waste recycling based on volume becomes more feasible across the country. 


As reuse programs and companies refurbish electronics for reuse, there is the inevitable e-waste that must be recycled. It is your responsibility to pick a suitable recycler. In fact, a company recycling electronic waste can be held responsible for the electronic information on computer hard drives if the recycling truck is in an accident. Another good reason to do business with reputable recyclers.


How can you locate a reputable recycler? Your level of potential liability may govern the level of information you need to responsibly recycle your electronics. A person with a single computer system or a PDA and batteries to recycle may call a reuse program and be glad to know their electronics will be accepted at no cost or for an acceptable fee. An individual may not know to ask if the business or program has a nationally recognized certification or a state e-waste recycling permit. Do people know to ask what method is used to wipe the hard drive and what the landfill policy is? A reuse program recycling large quantities of electronic waste has a greater potential liability and therefore needs a more thorough review of their potential recycler’s business practices.


Identify a potential electronic waste recycler. Three ways to start are:

Locally, check on the availability of e-waste recycling with your local computer store or recycling center. Ask your state bureau of waste management for a list of e-waste recyclers. Look for online information about manufacturer take back programs or trade in programs.

 Determine if the recycler processes the materials you want to recycle.

Ask the recycling company specifically if they take the items you want to recycle. Ask if there is a recycling fee. If the company has no charges, ask how they can afford to recycle for free.

 Does the recycler meet recognized levels of competent recycling?

Some states, including Kansas, have an e-waste recycling processor’s permit requirement of the state heath and environment department. Ask if the recycler has a state e-waste permit. In addition to or instead of a state permit, some companies have a nationally recognized certification. Two nationally recognized certification programs are:  ISO 14001 (an environmental management program) or IAER (International Association of Electronics Recyclers) certification (providing third party audit of electronic recyclers) Note that a company can be EPA registered and have an EPA identification number but there is no EPA certification. A company in a state that does not require an e-waste permit and that does not have other certification may still be a reputable recycling company. To determine their experience, ask: How long have they been in business? Have they received recycling awards or other notable recognition? Do they have references? A way to help determine expertise and reputation is to ask for references and check them.

 What process is used for destroying personal data?

Does the recycler use methods that meet the Department of Defense (DoD 5220.22-M) standard? Do they provide written certification that the data was wiped, the methods used or that the storage media was destroyed? Who is their downstream vendor? Do they maintain the same standards?

 What does the recycler do with the unwanted items?

What percentage of the materials collected is recycled and what percentage is disposed, either through landfilling or incineration?

 What is the recycler’s export policy?

Do they or their downstream vendor send electronic wastes overseas? If so, what are their export policies?  If they say no overseas exporting and you see shipping containers, ask more questions. Containers are shipped overseas, not between sites in the US. There is an overseas reuse market. Items for reuse should be prepared to ship intact, on pallets and appropriately protected.

 Does the recycler have general liability or environmental liability insurance?

How is the customer protected from liability? Does the company provide customers with documentation that their e-waste has been recycled?

 Other questions that may be applicable include:

What security measures are in place? How do they track inventory? serial numbers? Ask to see an example of their documentation. Ask about worker safety and equipment safety.

 Visit the recycling site.

The importance of a site visit cannot be over emphasized. The site visit can be at any time during the consideration process but should certainly happen before a decision is made to trust that your e-waste is responsibly recycled.



Guidelines for On-Site Reviews of Electronics Recyclers, page 2 of 9


Kansas Electronic Waste Vendor Form


Questions to Ask Potential Recyclers


Plug-in to eCycling – Frequent Questions on Electronics Recycling



Environmentally Safe Recycling Packet, Product 7.a

Assistive Technology for Kansans – Expanding Reuse Project              

Copyright © January 2008. Used with permission.




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Other Information

Title: How to Locate Reputable E-Waste Recyclers
Module: Program Operations
Author: Assistive Technology for Kansans
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title: End-of-life disposal of electronic waste
Organization Source: Assistive Technology for Kansans
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 7:25 PM