Let the circle be unbroken: Closing the loop on electronics

Let the circle be unbroken: Closing the loop on electronics

I spent Saturday morning getting a new cell phone. I don’t know exactly how many I have owned, but I once had a phone that came with its own carrying bag, if that gives you any idea. As I opened my desk drawer to store the box, I realized how many cell phones our family has used. I have two daughters and have made a habit of keeping the most recent phone in case one is lost or broken (which has happened). The problem is, I have not gotten rid of the old ones … so I have a drawer full of old phones in their original boxes.

And that’s just the beginning. From old cassette decks and calculators to computers and printers, I realized how many old electronic devices we have that we DO NOT USE. I am certain I could fill two garbage cans with them. So I started looking into electronics recycling programs.

State laws, such as the Texas Computer Equipment Recycling Act (2008), are driving manufacturers to help consumers dispose of devices responsibly. Firms like Apple are doing just that. They recently announced a trade-in program for their iPhones. You can find out how much your phone is worth at any store and get an Apple Store Gift Card for the value. The old phones will be recycled for use in the U.S. They also work with PowerON to recycle their electronics. That program is limited to iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs (desktop or notebook). If you just want to dispose of an old computer or phone, Apple contracts with an electronics recycler. You just pack it, and the recycler sends you the shipping label.

Online retailers are also helping in this endeavor. Amazon and eBay have similar programs, where you can get a gift card/PayPal credit equal to your used electronics’ estimated value. If the equipment is found to have no value, you’ve at least gotten it recycled.

And if you don’t want a gift card, you can go to a website like Gazelle.com and get cash for old cell phones or an Apple device.

All sorts of green electronics stores have popped up on eBay. Through the Green.eBay.com site, you can view manufacturer- or seller-refurbished items like tablets and readers. As an example, the GreenTrade-Electronics store has “previously loved” electronics for sale, all of which have been tested and evaluated. These devices are available for bid like other eBay items.

Best Buy also has an electronics recycling program and will accept most electronics and appliances at no charge. And even if they don’t accept it, they will find a place that does. Their goal is to recycle 1 billion pounds of electronics by the end of 2014.

These kinds of programs not only help manufacturers comply with regulations and give them access to recycled materials, they also address a growing consumer desire. We learned in our 2012 Green Living Pulse report that almost three-quarters of Americans think manufacturers have a responsibility for proper end-of-life disposal of the products they manufacture.

One of my resolutions for the New Year will be to close the loop on my forgotten electronics and to try to recycle as many of them as possible. Now, where did I put that bag phone?


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Posted on

November 19, 2013

About the Author

Jim Lyza

Jim is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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