Getting consumers involved in e-cycling

When it comes to recycling, most Americans opt for the easy way out – if recycling is convenient, and easy, they participate; when it requires effort, participation rates begin to slip. That’s why curbside collection programs tend to collect higher volumes of recyclables than drop-off programs.

While programs collecting bottles and cans at the curbside are wide-spread, electronics recycling lags far behind. Many pieces of e-scrap that could be recycled often languish in storage or head to landfills because of a real – or perceived – lack of convenient or low-cost recycling options in some areas.

Drop off recycling programs, while the cheapest for governments to operate, “relies heavily on consumer participation. Consumer participation requires a significant commitment to set aside, separate, clean, store and transport the material. It is very easy for a consumer to be an episodic recycler rather than a regular recycler,” according to a report produced by the Colorado Municipal League (

Curbside electronics recycling programs are few and far between – there are some communities that offer on-demand recycling for appliances and TV sets, and private companies that will schedule pickup for a fee – most community programs work on the special-collection or drop-off model. Some of these programs do charge a fee for recycling electronic products with display screens.

An exception to this is the recycling program in Bellevue, Wash. This program, in addition to regular recyclables, permits certain electronics, like computers, laptops, monitors, and televisions, in curbside recycling bins at no additional cost to residents.

Across the country, there are efforts to change the attitude that it’s too hard or too expensive for consumers to recycle their old electronic products.

Targeted drop off programs, like those operated by Call2Recycle, have met with success for small electronics like mobile phones, batteries and other small products. The company places collection containers at select locations for consumer drop off. When the box is full, collecting organizations send the box back to the company for recycling and new recycling containers are sent in return. There is no cost to consumers or collection sites; the company says more than 2 million pounds of batteries have been collected from 30,000 sites this year.

“We continue to focus on encouraging more consumers to recycle batteries so that we can limit the amount of virgin natural resources necessary to manufacture new ones,” said Carl Smith, CEO of Call2Recycle. “We are very pleased with our growth of collections, but we also know that we have much more to do before we can claim success.”


Other drop-off programs are also seeing successes. Best Buy, for example, recently eliminated fees charged to consumers for recycling certain electronics at story drop-off programs.

“Best Buy offers the most comprehensive eCycling options of any other retailer. Since we announced our one billion pound eCycling goal in 2009, we’ve collected nearly 500 million pounds of consumer electronics and appliances for recycling,” said Maggie Habashy, Best Buy Spokesperson. The stores collect, company-wide, an average of 387 pounds of electronics Best Buy takes in every minute stores are open.


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  1. Finding ways to capture the residential e-scrap recycling market | escrapbeat

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