Companies Expand Recycling Programs For Electronic Equipment

In recent months, a number of manufacturers and retailers have stepped up their efforts to get consumers to recycle used computer and electronic devices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in the next three years, consumers will throw 350 million tons of computer equipment into landfills. In addition, the EPA estimates that by 2005, 130 million cell phones will be discarded, adding 65,000 more tons to the waste pile.

Throwing old computers and electronic devices into landfills poses a serious environmental risk. The equipment contains cadmium, beryllium, lead, mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and other hazardous material that can pollute land and water. In response to the potential crisis, organizations have created recycling programs, which allow consumers to bring in obsolete or unwanted equipment, rather than simply discarding them.

This spring, the Dell Recycling National Tour made five stops, where it collected 250 tons of recyclable computer equipment. The tour, which was originally slated to end April 27, has been extended to July 12. In addition to the tour, Dell will recycle old printers at no cost for customers who buy new Dell printers.

Dell is also one of 10 partners in the EPA-sponsored program, Plug-In to eCycling. Other participants include AT&T Wireless, Best Buy, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony. Plug-In provides consumers with information about recycling programs around the country.

Staples, the office supply retailer, launched a chain-wide in-store recycling program in April that accepts mobile electronics and rechargeable batteries. Staples, which is headquartered in Farmingham, MA, has 1,500 office superstores. Other companies offering recycling programs include Canon, Epson, Gateway, and Motorola. For a more extensive listing, visit the National Recycling Coalition, which maintains a database of programs by state and organization.

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