E-waste Legislations and Management System in Americas

E-waste Legislations and Management System in Americas

The United States of America does not have national legislation on the management of e-waste, but 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of legislation. The state laws vary in their scope and impact and in whether or not they prohibit consumers from disposing of electronics in landfills. In all, the laws cover 75-80% of the USA population. However, due to the differences in scope, many areas of the country, including states covered by-laws, do not have convenient collection opportunities. Apart from California and Utah, all states that have implemented laws use an EPR approach. Canada does not have national legislation in effect on the management of e-waste, as the federal agency would not have this authority. However, 12 provinces and territories have regulations in place with industry-managed programmes – all but Nunavut, the least populated territory in Canada. On average, the product scope is much wider than the USA; in many Canadian provinces, the EPR requirements can be met by joining an approved e-waste compliance scheme. 

Regulatory advances in Latin America take time, and only a few countries have managed to establish e-waste laws. Although there has been considerable progress regarding the implementation of specific e-waste regulations in Latin America in the past 5-10 years, this progress is limited to a few countries, and for the rest, the road ahead is still very long. Apart from Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Peru – likely the leading forces in the region for environmentally sound e-waste management and which, in 2020, are working on improving the already established systems, only Brazil and Chile are establishing the bases from which to start with the implementation of a formal regulatory framework for e-waste. 

Brazil recently published the “Sectoral Agreement for the Implementation of the Reverse Logistics System for WEEE from households” for public consultation, and its formal signature is expected in 2020. After enacting the “Framework Law on Waste Management, Extended Producer Responsibility, and Promotion of Recycling” in 2016, Chile is now working on the specific e-waste regulation, which will include collection and recycling targets and set the guidelines for the implementation of formal collection systems. Seven years after implementing Decree 1512 for waste from computers, printers, and peripherals, Colombia is working on a new regulation to extend EPR to all e-waste categories and make adjustments to the integrated management system for e-waste, taking into account the lessons learned and the guidelines established by WEEE Law 1672 and the National Policy for WEEE Management. Looking back already on five years since the implementation of its first e-waste management systems, Peru has been evaluating the experience very closely so that it can close loopholes and make alignments with the country’s general waste management strategy. The revised regulation is expected to be published soon and will also extend the scope of e-waste categories with a mandatory collection target of small and large household appliances and, in particular, cooling appliances.  

As of 2020, Mexico is planning on reviewing the current regulation after its first five-year term and has been expanding several studies in order to redefine the responsibilities of involved stakeholders, establish clearly defined categories, and set mandatory collection targets, thereby increasing collected and formally recycled volumes. 

Costa Rica has finally overcome its initial challenges created by contradictory regulations and is now focusing on improving the implementation of the current regulation. Following numerous unsuccessful initiatives and law projects with a specific focus on e-waste at both the federal and provincial level, Argentina has now changed its approach by drafting an EPR law for multiple waste categories. The law is still being discussed in the Congress. Through its Ministerial Agreement 191, Ecuador has been enforcing the take-back of mobile phones from all mobile phone operators and importers, which led to the collection and recycling of nearly 50,000 units in 2017. Bolivia introduced the principle of EPR in its general waste management law in 2015, which applies to several waste fractions, especially batteries. Nevertheless, the law has never been regulated and therefore doesn’t establish any applicable collection targets. 

The short summary of abovementioned countries highlights a general problem observable throughout the region: the lack of harmonisation of these regulations and the general principles they are based upon. Most of them present differences in the general approach (EPR vs. shared responsibility vs. public sector programmes), in jurisdictions level (federal vs. state vs. city), the definitions of the fundamental principles, the involved stakeholders, the allocation of roles and responsibilities, and the applicable e-waste categories, just to name a few.

Source: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 


E-waste management system 


The USA undertook general measures to prevent e-waste at the federal level and, so, does have a set of regulatory measures for limiting the adverse effects posed by unappropriated disposal and treatment of electronics. Certain electronics, if meeting certain criteria, must be managed under the requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Federal agencies are directed to use electronics recyclers that are certified according to either the Responsible Recycling (R2) or e-Stewards standards. Hundreds of electronics recycling facilities have been independently certified to one or both of the certification programmes, whose standard has been updated and enhanced since their inception in 2010.

Latin America still offers a very wide range of companies involved in today’s e-waste management and disposal activities, especially when it comes to the development of the local recyclers. On one hand, while there were only three R2-certified companies south of Mexico just a few years ago, there are now more than 15. On the other hand, the number of e-waste recyclers in nearly all countries has grown considerably, but most of the newer companies are still at the very bottom of the learning curve. Although there have been some interesting initiatives, it has not been possible yet to establish technical standards that respond to the local conditions of the region.

Without a doubt, the growing number of recyclers in the region is also a consequence of the growing volumes of formally collected end-of-life electronics. In countries with a specific legal framework for e-waste and mandatory collection targets, such as Colombia and Peru, the growth of the collected volumes has been steady and remarkable. In parallel, the range of appliances collected has also widened. The focus is no longer only on information and communication technologies only. Goods – especially cooling appliances – have been included in the scope, and there are several projects focusing primarily on energy efficiency programmes and the development of local infrastructure in order to ensure proper handling and treatment of discarded appliances and, thus, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Driven by regulation, the importance of formal collection systems is also increasing, as is the number of individual or collective compliance schemes.

Very large quantities are still handled by the informal sector or, in the best cases, stored away in basements. The informal sector is part of the labour structure of Latin America, but only very few countries, such as Brazil and Chile, are actively addressing their role in relation to e-waste management. Recognition, regulation, and integration of their work in this area is clearly one of the region's great challenges. Another challenge is the lack of contributions from the research field. There are hardly any e-waste statistics, and the few available have been overused and are worn out. There is a need for up-to-date information and proven methodologies that support the definition of policies and regulations. Only by getting a grip on such updating of information will it be possible to tackle the far more complex topic of raising the awareness level and educating consumers of all sorts to help bring e-waste management in Latin America to the next level.

Follow:  The Global E-waste Monitor 2020


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