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Don’t toss it!

Resources abound to help consumers and manufacturers enable responsible reuse and recycling

by Melody M. Bomgardner
August 1, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 31


Don’t toss it!

Electronics reuse and recycling

For consumers

Cell phone recycling

EPA maintains drop-off and mail-in information for all major cell phone manufacturers and wireless providers on its website.

Sprint Buyback Program

Sprint customers can receive a credit of up to $250 for sending an eligible used wireless device. For example, Sprint will currently credit $83.06 for an iPhone 3G, 8 gigabyte.


Dell receives the highest mark—a B grade—from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition for its computer-take-back program. Used Dell computers can be brought to one of more than 2,200 Goodwill locations for responsible recycling. In addition, Staples stores will accept Dell office products, including peripherals, for free recycling. Customers can also download a mailing label from Dell’s website to send back an old computer.

You can read an analysis of the Dell program by the Electronics TakeBack Coalition here.

Best Buy

Best Buy’s in-store e-cycle program will take back used electronics, regardless of where they were purchased or how old they are, including TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, cell phones, and more. Most are recycled for free, although there are restrictions. Gently used electronics may qualify for a Best Buy gift card. Best Buy also provides information about its recycling standards and its recycling partners on its website.

State regulations

Currently, 25 U.S. states have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling. But the laws vary. You can read about state laws and see a state-by-state comparison here.

For manufacturers

Business-NGO Working Group (BizNGO)

Sprint is working with BizNGO, an industry-organization partnership organized under the auspices of the Clean Action Network. The BizNGO website lists policy initiatives for federal chemical policy reform as well as guidance for safer chemical policies and sustainable materials.

Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical & Electronic Equipment (RoHS)

RoHS is a European Union rule that limits the amount (by weight) of lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers , and cadmium allowed in electronic goods. A guide from the U.K. government explains the rules and how producers should comply.

Container Recycling

For consumers

Plastics recycling guide

The Smart Plastics Guide explains what all those recycling numbers mean. The guide was produced by National Geographic and PBS.

Bottle bills

Eleven states in the U.S. have bottle bills that require deposits for beverage containers to support reclamation and recycling.

For manufacturers

GreenBlue and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers have published guidelines for packaging designers to help them create products that can be more easily recycled. For example, the organizations support recycling-friendly adhesives and labels.

Plastics: Design for Recyclability Guidelines

Closing the Loop: Paper, metal, and glass Design for Recovery Guidelines



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