Lithium Ion Batteries and Other Electronics That Shouldn’t Be Put in a Dumpster

Dumpsters are a very convenient way to dispose of large construction debris, daily commercial refuse and lots of other “junk”, but not everything is fit for a dumpster in Rhode Island.  Solid waste management is a serious issue that is taken seriously by local, state and federal governments, and that includes Rhode Island.

Of particular interest in this article is the concept of electronic waste, or “E-waste”.  It’s the largest growing portion of refuse in the waste stream, and it can be especially dangerous to put in landfills.  Most electronics are comprised of plastics, glass and metal (such as TVs and computer monitors, etc), and are as such not biodegradable (in addition to being regulated by standard recycling laws).  In addition to the “normal” reasoning for not letting this waste into the solid waste stream is the fact that they can also contain other potentially hazardous materials like mercury, lithium (like the popular lithium ion batteries that are present in cell phones, laptops and the newfangled “Hoverboards”).

Recycling Laws and Banned Electronics

Electronic waste is the fastest growing portion of our solid waste. This picture shows what electronic junk yards and landfills can look like.
Electronic waste is the fastest growing portion of our solid waste. This picture shows what electronic junk yards and landfills can look like.

A law that was passed in 2008 and went into effect in 2009 placed a ban on many electronics being placed in the solid waste stream (i.e. into landfills), and also required manufacturers to provide recycling of the products at the “end of their useful life”.

The banned electronics include the following:

  • Computers (CPUs/Motherboards)
  • Computer monitors (CRT and flat panel)
  • Combination units (CPUs with monitors)
  • Laptops (with a screen greater then 9 inches diagonally)
  • Televisions (including CRT, LCD and plasma with a screen greater then 9 inches diagonally)
  • Video devices greater then 9 inches diagonal.

The law doesn’t cover every piece of computer equipment.  Here are some of the items that are not covered by the Rhode Island recycling law of 2008:

  • Printers and  peripherals (e.g. cables, mouse or keyboards)
  • Computers/TVs/video display devices in cars and incorporated into large pieces of equipment.
  • Numerous other exemptions.

Laws like these are important for the environment of Rhode Island, but they also introduce complications when owning a home or business.  It also makes outsourcing services for junk removal and dumpster rental a much more enticing option for homes and businesses.

Talk with Your Dumpster/Waste Management Specialist

While you will be ultimately responsible for any waste you place in a dumpster on your property, it makes sense to talk with your waste management professional if you have any questions or doubts about what to include in the dumpster.  They deal with these things everyday so they will likely have some good information for you.

Of course the ultimate authority on these issues will be your local sanitation department.  Check their website or call them directly if you have any questions.  Sometimes the requirements and laws can be a little tough to decipher, so calling and speaking to a human is likely a more agreeable option for most people.

For more information on the Rhode Island E-Waste laws, read it here:

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What is “Zero Waste” and How Does It Affect Waste Removal Services?

The concept of “Zero Waste” is something that has become increasingly popular over the past few years.  Both in professional communities and organizations people have developed ways to reduce and reuse waste, however there seems to be a little confusion of what exactly defines “Zero” waste.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, there is now a consensus definition of what the term zero waste means, which includes “ethical, economical, efficient and visionary [way to] guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

Sounds reasonable, no? After all, every waste (besides maybe hazardous/toxic waste) can be used as a raw material in some form or another.  The most fundamental form of this is composting plant and solid waste for fertilizer and soil, but this also spreads to the recycling of materials such as paper, plastic, glass and metal.


So what significance does this newfound definition have?  First, it was adopted by the National Recycling Coalition, (a non-profit advocacy group which works to spread wide adoption of recycling and other sustainability practices), as well as other similar groups around the world.  Secondly, its the only definition of the concept of zero waste that is peer reviewed.

Another special part of this definition that differs from other interpretations of the concept is that it does not include “waste to energy” as an acceptable use of waste.  This would include incineration (i.e. burning trash).  Trash incineration will not be categorized as “waste diversion”, but rather as another form of waste disposal.

Adopting such a clear and aspirational definition of the concept will allow communities, organizations and other advocates to strive for the most ambitious goals of recycling and waste diversion.  It is certainly a tide that is starting to turn, with many throughout the country continuing to adopt the definition and make strides towards a more perfect waste management community (include dumpster services).


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