As the largest city in the US, New York’s waste generation is huge. Some reports put the figure at more than 14 million tons per year, with much of that waste still going to landfill or being incinerated. However, things are changing, and as the city’s recent sustainability initiatives begin to take hold, less waste is being generated on a municipal level, and the latest figures from the DSNY suggest that 68% of what is trashed goes into curbside recycling or organics bins.
One waste stream that presents a significant number of challenges, however, is e-waste. Difficult to recycle, full of toxic materials, and sometimes bulky and hard to move, e-waste generation in New York is on the rise—in fact, it’s considered the fastest growing waste stream in the world thanks to our obsession with everything digital.
However, according to the Department of Sanitation, since the ban on curbside e-waste in NYC in 2015, there has been a 60% drop in e-waste found within regular trash. This is a step in the right direction, as not only are most of the plastics contained within e-waste non-biodegradable, but many of the electronic components have the potential to leak harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium into the environment.
These new state laws, alongside an increase in dedicated services and drop-off sites that allow New Yorkers to recycle e-waste in NY, is helping the city tackle the problem. To help both businesses and consumers be part of the e-waste solution, we’ve brought together all the information you need to recycle your e-waste wherever you are in the city of New York.
What types of e-waste can be recycled in New York?
The 2015 consumer ban on the disposal of electronics in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, in the trash, or at curbside for trash pickup, laid out the groundwork for items that must be recycled correctly, with fines of $100 dollars for anyone adding these items to municipal trash cans. The following items can be recycled for free at the correct facilities as listed by the DEC.
- Interactive flat panel display (w/ processor)
- Thin client
- Virtual reality headset (w/ processor)
- 3-D printer (intended for use w/ a computer and weighing <100 lbs.)
- Document scanner (intended for use w/ a computer and weighing <100 lbs.)
- Electronic keyboard
- Electronic mouse or similar pointing device
- Facsimile machine (intended for use w/ a computer and weighing <100 lbs.)
- Label printer (intended for use w/ a computer and weighing <100 lbs.)
- Monitor (>4″ diagonally)
- Printer (intended for use w/ a computer and weighing <100 lbs.)
Small Electronic Equipment
- Cable or satellite receiver
- Digital converter box
- Digital video recorder (DVR)
- Digital video disc (DVD) player
- Electronic or video game console (handheld and those intended for use w/ a video display device)
- Portable digital music player (w/ memory capability)
- Projector w/ DVD player capability
- Videocassette recorder (VCR)
Small Scale Servers
- Designed in a desktop or similar form factor and capable of supporting only a single processor
- >4″ diagonally
- Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
However, when considering what e-waste can be recycled in New York, facilities exist for a much broader range of items. In addition to this, the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act has enacted a Manufacturer Takeback Program which you should always check before you consider what to recycle and where.
Why should I recycle electronics in NYC?
There are many reasons to recycle e-waste in NYC, and both businesses and consumers now have increased responsibility to recycle correctly, with potential fines and other legal action taken against serial offenders. Additionally, protecting the local, national, and global environment is increasingly important as we realize the destructive impact of all types of waste.
However, the city’s commitment to further reducing waste by 2050, as evidenced in the Zero Waste Pledge, means that attitudes are changing to our “take, make, waste” mindset. It is likely that current legislation and initiatives to reduce e-waste will continue to expand, placing further restrictions on irresponsible landfilling or careless disposal.
For example, in 2020 alone, NYC introduced two separate EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) bills to place greater emphasis on manufacturers to help consumers reduce waste at all levels of the supply chain. While these bills focused on packaging and paper, many people expect EPR to extend to the consumer electronics sector in the near future.
Where can I recycle electronics in New York?
Whether you want to find out how to recycle a TV in NYC, or you need a final resting place for your cellphone, the municipality has plenty of options for you to choose from—many of them with easily accessible drop-off points located across the state.
Facilities in NYC
The DSNY website provides a comprehensive map that includes current facilities and links to their respective websites. This includes more than 90 retail outlets and non-profits that accept e-waste for recycling or donation, with each store or chain accepting a variety of electronic products (check before arrival). The following are the most well-known locations in NYC:
- Lower East Side Ecology Center
Fire Boat House, East River Promenade at Grand Street, NY 10002
- Best Buy
Phone Number: (888) 237-8289
Phone Number: (718) 728-5400
- Salvation Army
Phone Number: (800) 728-7825
Phone Number: (800) 333-3330
As part of NYC’s commitment to increasing e-waste recycling, the DSNY offers a free electronic waste collection program for apartment buildings of 10 or more units. Applications to the program can be found here, and once enrolled, electronics collections can be organized when required. Currently, the EcycleNYC program accepts the following types of electronics:
- VCRs, DVRs, and DVD players
- Cable and satellite boxes
- Video game consoles
- Computers: including small servers; monitors; laptops and peripherals (such as keyboards, hard drives, mice, etc.)
- Fax machines
- Small electronics: including tablets; mobile phones; MP3 players, e-readers
NOTE: Appliances, rechargeable batteries/disposable batteries, and light bulbs are NOT accepted.
Manufacturer Take Back
In line with the 2015 disposal ban, manufacturers are now also required to take back old electronic products under their own brand, and in some cases, products from other brands too. A list of equipment manufacturers and their specific programs can be found here, however, you can also visit the brand website or go into the store where special waste drop-off sites are set up.
How else can I recycle electronics in New York?
For businesses and commercial interests in NYC, waste management companies such as RTS can help divert e-waste away from landfill with comprehensive recycling programs. Whether organizing a one-time collection or recurring services specifically for e-waste, our fleet of digitally connected haulers allows businesses to efficiently and transparently recycle or donate electronic products.
To promote greater transparency within the waste management industry, we provide insightful waste stream analytics that detail how much waste was diverted from landfill, which of the approved facilities for electronics disposal in NYC it was delivered to, and when it arrived. This allows your business to push forward your sustainability goals using verifiable data, helping you to streamline future waste management operations and remain compliant with the latest laws and legislation.
Consumers and businesses who want more information on how to recycle e-waste in NYC may also draw upon the waste management hierarchy and the zero-waste hierarchy. These approaches prioritize reuse and repair over recycling, keeping devices in circulation as long as possible to maximize the resources used during manufacture, and reducing the burden on the recycling industry.
Donation and second-hand sales of unwanted electronics are the ideal option for working devices, and both individuals and businesses can pass older models of equipment on to friends, family members, or even other businesses and non-profits.
Repair should also be high up on the list when considering how to recycle e-waste in NYC. The Fixers Collective meet in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and their radical approach to “improvisational fixing” may inspire you to take your sustainability measures one step further. Additionally, safe disposal events are held throughout the city, providing “pop-up” recycling options for city residents.
What does the future hold for electronics recycling in NY?
The many challenges surrounding e-waste recycling in New York will take time and dedication to overcome, particularly as the number of devices consumed continues to rise. This means that sustainability education, for both the consumers and businesses, is a crucial component in our efforts to reduce the number of devices being sent to landfill.
To help your business prepare for the future of electronic waste in New York, RTS offers training by LEED-accredited professionals. Using both on-site and virtual employee training programs, we can help push your business further, allowing you to meet sustainability and compliance goals. For more information, contact RTS today to discuss your requirements.
Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about recycling e-waste in our other locations within the US, please refer to our other electronics recycling guides: