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Electronic & Special Waste

Some forms of recycling are trickier than others. Some materials, such as electronic waste and "universal waste" are regulated not only on a municipal level, but on a state and/or federal level as well.

What is electronic waste or e-waste?

The EPA defines "e-waste" as "electronics that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded, donated or given to a recycler." (Source). Practically, this means your old or broken electronics and electronic accessories, such as phones, computers, keyboards, televisions, and other smart devices. Generally, non-smart devices (such as a simple toaster or simple battery operated children's toy) can be recycled in general recycling, but "smart" devices like speakers and digital picture frames must be recycled as e-waste.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Desktop PCs & Servers

  • Monitors (Flat and CRT)

  • Computer Mice

  • Cables & Accessories

  • Keyboards

  • Network Devices

  • Laptops

  • Hard Drives

  • Computer Power Supplies

  • Computer Peripherals

  • Circuit Boards/Cards

  • Media Speakers

  • Toner & Ink Cartridges

  • Copiers

  • Fax Machines

  • Video & Audio Equipment

  • Projection Equipment

  • Cameras

  • Printers

  • Scanners

  • Battery Containing Devices

  • Phones (Mobile & Land)

  • Tablets

  • USB Drives/External Harddrives

What is universal waste?

The EPA breaks universal waste into five categories: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, lamps, and aerosol cans. (Source). Practically speaking, this means that batteries (especially lithium ion batteries), pesticides, thermostats, LED and fluorescent tube light bulbs, and aerosol cans, among other materials may not be placed in the regular trash or recycling streams and must be specially handled.

Can I dispose of batteries in the trash?

As with all recycling questions, it depends. Lead-acid batteries (such as A, AA, AAA, C, D, etc.) batteries can be disposed of in the regular garbage in most municipalities when they are spent, while rechargeable batteries and lithium ion batteries must be recycled specially. However, it is best practice to recycle lead-acid batteries as well to ensure that the lead in them is safely recaptured, and to ensure that they cannot spark garbage fires by accident.

What about light bulbs?

Simple, unbroken incandescent light bulbs can be disposed of as trash, but fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs, and smart light bulbs must all be disposed of as universal waste. This is because they contain hazardous materials.

What if my light bulbs have broken?

If your incandescent bulb has broken, you can treat it like broken glass and dispose of it by placing it in a cardboard box, tightly taping it, marking it "BROKEN GLASS", and placing in the trash so that you and everyone who comes into contact with it will be kept safe from being cut.


If your fluorescent, LED, or smart light bulb has broken, please follow these safety steps by the EPA and call Diverse to make sure that the materials are handed appropriately.

I've read an article that says that this material gets dumped in developing nations. How do I know this material has been handled responsibly?

At Diverse, we are committed to handling all of your waste and recycling in an ethical and green manner. If your e-waste or universal waste cannot be given a new home and must be recycled, we work with domestic recyclers to give these materials a second life. This means that we use less carbon for shipping, and all of our affiliate sites are regulated by the US EPA and relevant state laws. Your materials will never be dumped in someone else's lap, and we can provide certificates of recycling upon request.

My electronics still work, but I don't need them anymore. What can I do?

Call Diverse! We can also help you find a new home for your old electronics.

I don't have an e-waste or universal waste program, and my property won't host one, but I want to participate. What do I do?

Diverse will work with you to figure out what makes the best sense for you. Reach out and let us know!

I still have questions and I'm not even sure where to begin looking!

That's ok! This is just an overview, but you're in luck: Diverse has recycled literal tons of e-waste and universal waste. Send your questions to and we'll do our best to answer your questions and connect you with the resources you need. 

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