Questions to Ask Potential Recyclers

To ensure the proper handling of your used electronics, we recommend that you ask a few questions of the person or business you are entrusting with these devices. These questions can help you determine if your devices will be handled properly.

Legal disclaimer

Do you accept electronic devices from individuals? Will you accept my device for recycling?
  • Some recyclers will not accept devices from households. Make sure your recycler will accept devices (one or more) from you.
  • Not all recyclers accept all devices - make sure your recycler will take your particular device

What are your policies and practices for destroying personal data that may still exist on used computers or cell phones?
  • Data can be wiped from storage media using a magnetic wiping method or using a program to overwrite all sectors of a hard drive. Any method used for data wiping should be done more than once (multi-pass).
  • Storage media can be destroyed by shredding, cutting, incinerating, multiple perforations or crushing.
  • Your recycler should be able to provide written certification that the data was wiped or storage media destroyed, as well as a record of the methods used.

Do you follow any recognized best management practices for electronics recyclers? Who certifies and audits your management system? Are you legally able to perform the work you claim?
  • Recyclers and consolidators should be able to produce evidence that they have the proper facilities, training and equipment to perform the operations they claim by showing you an audited management/operations system, complete with evidence of recent audits.
  • Ask if they have environmental management certification or system in place, such as ISO 14001 environmental management certification, or certifications by organizations like the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER) or the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).
  • For those that are not certified, ask if they follow any recognized environmental management guidelines such as EPA's Plug-in to E-Cycling Guidelines.

Have you had any environmental or safety violations (citations, fines, notice of violation, consent orders, etc) or filed for any environmental damage insurance claims in the last 5 years? If yes, please explain.
  • Companies that have a good track record of complying with environmental and safety requirements are preferred.
  • A company that has been in business for several years with only a few minor violations that were quickly resolved may be just as responsible as a company with only a year or two in the business with no violations.
  • Check for major violations such as large quantity waste releases or significant neighborhood complaints.

Do you send used equipment or wastes to other business partners or service providers? If yes, do you know what their export policies are, if they have any environmental or recycling certifications or if they follow recognized best management practices for recycling?
  • Good recordkeeping is one of the best practices.  Look for companies that keep detailed records including where they ship materials, how much they ship and serial numbers for items to be reused.
  • Although there are several “full service” recyclers in the U.S., it is likely that the recycler you give your products to will not handle the full processing of your device.
  • Your recycling company should have written logs of what processing (such as sorting and/or shredding) is done on site and who receives the materials or products after initial processing.
  • Ask if the recycler’s business partners are contractually bound to the same standards or best management practices your recycler holds themselves to. 
  • Be wary of recyclers who state that their processes and business partners are “confidential,” “proprietary,” or “they don’t know.”
  • All exporting must be done in compliance with laws applicable to both the exporting and importing countries.

What percentage of the materials you collect are recycled and what percentage is disposed (either through landfilling or incineration)?
  • Recyclers should recycle as much of the materials as is economically feasible. 
  • Look for companies that can recycle 90% or more of the materials, sending less than 10% for disposal or incineration. 
  • Also look for recyclers that avoid landfilling or incinerating items such as mercury lamps, leaded glass and batteries.

Do you have general liability and environmental liability insurance? If so, how much?
  • Insurance requirements vary from state to state, and the amount and type of coverage necessary will vary by the size and operations at the facility. 
  • The amount and coverage will depend on the scope and magnitude of the operations.

How do you handle mercury lamps in electronic products?
  • If your recycler accepts products that contain mercury lamps, such as LCD monitors, laptop computers and some copiers, they should have and follow written procedures for removing the mercury-containing components prior to processing the device.

Disclaimer:

The questions and answers on this website are intended only as a guide, for informational purposes only. This list of questions does not constitute a complete set of questions that should or could be asked by consumers. A complete, or even satisfactory, response by a recycler does not guarantee that the recycler is a responsible service provider. Persons contacting a recycler should conduct their own investigations and make their own determinations regarding the accuracy and usefulness of the information provided.

The information on this page is not intended to constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice. While a reasonable attempt has been made to maintain the information on this Website as accurately as possible, this information may contain errors or omissions, for which TIA, its member companies, and allied associations disclaim any liability. TIA, its member companies, and allied associations further disclaim any liability for any damages, whether direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental, resulting from the use of the information contained herein. Reference to third party organizations or websites does not represent or imply endorsement by TIA, its member companies, and allied associations of any of the practices of these organizations, nor does it imply certification or liability for these organizations.