The regulations

Two pieces of decades-old law govern e-waste: the so-called Superfund legislation and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

It’s unclear how forcefully governments enforce these laws in terms of e-waste. Most stories of companies getting fined are anecdotal. In one study, Gartner suggests that one corporation paid a $200,000 fine for improper disposal, but doesn’t get more specific than that. A disposition company, Green-Tech Assets, warns that the Environmental Protection Agency can levy fines of $15,000 per incident and $25,000 per day for improper disposal. But Jim Lynch, program manager for CompuMentor, a nonprofit computer recycling and reuse center, believes fines are rare and enforcement spotty at best. “Ask around and you never get a straight answer,” he says.

That could be changing. Laws specifically targeting e-waste are being enacted now, with more on the way. Although many are consumer-focused, some will target corporate e-waste. One of the toughest laws, called the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), went into effect in Europe in August.