The formula seems right: free recycling + accessible bins = higher recycling rate. Well, it’s not always that easy.
While manufacturers and retailers are upping the number of free recycling programs for everything from old CRT televisions to chunky cell phones, studies show that consumers just aren’t getting on board.
Case in point: The U.S. EPA launched its Plug-In to eCycling campaign in 2003, encouraging major manufacturers to provide recycling options for electronics. In 2008, Plug-In partners collected and recycled 11 million cell phones, but considering that there are 100 million cell phones ready for recycling in the U.S., that number is actually pretty low.
“It’s easy for consumers to say that they don’t recycle because they don’t know about it, but if you just go on the Internet and search, you will see that most major carriers recycle,” says Jenni Chun, associate manager of Sustainability for LG Electronics.
“It’s definitely tough to change behavior. Consumers are reminded about cell phone recycling when they see the bins in stores, but in reality their phones are still in drawers, closets or the garage.”
Inconvenience is one of the top reasons people don’t recycle, but a close second is lack of knowledge. While we can’t make you shut down you computer, pack your car full of old gadgets and drive to the nearest recycling location, we can, however, give you the download on major retailers that offer free, in-store programs.
What: All brands of cell phones, smartphones, PC cards, batteries and accessories
Quick fact: In 2009, AT&T reused and recycled an estimated 4.2 million phones and recycled 1.7 million pounds of accessories and batteries.
What: Multi-media projectors, printers, car audio, home audio, PDAs and hand-held devices, mobile electronics (GPS, cell phones, MP3 players), various game systems, televisions, monitors, laptops, ink cartridges, CDs and DVDs and rechargeable batteries
Need to know: Consumers pay $10 for recycling each TV, monitor and laptop, and in return, receive a $10 Best Buy gift card. All other items accepted through the program are free to the consumer. The program does not accept appliances, TVs larger than 32”, or console TVs of any size. All hard drives must be removed from laptops and desktops before they are accepted for recycling.
Quick fact: Best Buy collected more than 60 million pounds of electronics in 2009.
What: Computers, computer accessories and televisions
Need to know: Goodwill partnered with Dell Inc. for its residential computer recycling program, called RECONNECT. Its computer recycling and electronics recycling businesses creates jobs and supports job training programs.
What: All wireless phones, batteries, accessories and data cards, regardless of carrier or condition
Need to know: Sprint Buyback offers customers an account credit to return select Sprint and Nextel-branded devices.
Quick fact: In 2009, Sprint collected 1,095,177 pounds of mobile phones and wireless accessories.
What: Cell phones, PDAs, inkjet cartridges and rechargeable batteries
Need to know: While recycling the above items is free of charge, for a $10 fee, customers can recycle computers, laptops, printers, scanners, faxes, all-in-ones, CRTs monitors and LCD monitors. Computer peripherals such as keyboards, mice, speakers and modems can be recycled for free with larger items at any Staples store.
Quick Fact: In 2009, Staples collected 7 million pounds of consumer electronics.
Even more options
You can make money for your electronic without stepping foot in a retail store. Gazelle.com accepts about 30,000 functional and defunct electronics. Using secondary retailers such as eBay, the website will estimate your item’s worth.
And no worries if your clunky television from 1989 doesn’t fetch any dough – Gazelle will recycle it for free. Gazelle pays for shipping and will even send a box for most orders.
As always, you can use Earth911 to find local recycling for electronics and more.