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Electronics Recycling Catches On

Apr 21, 2008 12:00 PM

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With Earth Day just around the corner and the analog shutoff looming on the horizon, efforts to create coordinated recycling plans prior to February’s TV digital TV conversion appear to be paying off.

Sony and Waste Management reported last week that their joint program for recycling in the Minneapolis area generated 4 million pounds of electronics over a single weekend. According to the companies, 42,000 consumers took part in the effort, delivering used electronics to five dropoff locations in the area. Best Buy also provided financial muscle for the recycling drive. To spur involvement, sponsors awarded participating consumers with a coupon to attend an environmental event at the local zoo.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this was the second successful recycling event in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the past year. Last November, a three-day electronics recycling effort at the Mall of America had to be cut short because of overwhelming public response. Free recycling is apparently an attractive draw, according to the newspaper, which reports that local community recycling programs can charge $5 to $50 per drop.

Sony and Waste Management announced last year they had teamed up for the Sony Take Back program which gives customers a free way to recycle up to five Sony products per day by dropping them off at designated Waste Management e-cycling dropoff centers throughout the country. At the time of the announcement, Waste Management had 75 locations across the country and promised at least one in each state by the end of 2007. At press time, only 18 states had made the list, although some states including California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin had numerous locations. Consumers also have the option of shipping their used Sony electronics products to select Waste Management locations.

Recycling programs are also receiving funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA provided a $15,000 grant to the Rochester Center for Environmental Information for an event scheduled for April 19. Another area event will be held in June.

Meanwhile, in states that haven’t done so already, legislative efforts are underway to require manufacturers to share the burden of recycling in advance of the analog shutoff. A bill currently in the Nebraska legislature would require manufacturers selling more than 5,000 computers or TVs in the state a year to pay up to $20,000 toward recycling costs. The fee would be reduced for manufacturers offering their own recycling programs. The bill would also require companies to offer programs to take back used electronics in the state.

According to the results of a survey released by the Consumer Electronics Association earlier this month, consumers reported recycling nearly 30 percent more televisions in 2007 than in 2005. That trend extends to other CE categories as well. The survey also found that 87 percent of consumers say it's important to recycle their CE devices. Among those consumers who did report throwing away a television in the last year, 42 percent said they weren't aware of recycling programs for electronics.

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