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Trade, Baby, Trade

2012 February 15

By Lucy Casella

It was a struggle to get our relatives in Pennsylvania to recycle their PC and monitor.

“We’ve got plenty of landfill space in state, and besides, we would have to drive to Staples and pay $10 to recycle them,” they argued.

My husband and I both work for environmental agencies, but they were unmoved by our “responsible recycling” arguments. They even refused our $10 “bribe.”

No surprise then that we found ourselves transporting electronics 350 miles back home from the Keystone State!

After this flush of green virtue, practical considerations intruded: our community didn’t have electronics recycling, we lived 30 miles from the closest Staples and we commute via train.

Fortunately, we found Costco’s elegantly simple mail-in electronics trade-in program. All I had to do was type model information into Costco’s recycling website. If the units had market value, I could ship them free – AND receive a Costco cash card. Since these units had no value, I downloaded a prepaid shipping label and deposited the electronics at a UPS pick-up location four miles away.

At the time of this PC intervention, challenges to recycling included consumer confusion, minimal recycling networks, and few manufacturer take-back programs. The proliferation of cell phones since then has me wondering how many are recycled today.

According to EPA, only about 10 percent of cell phones are recycled. If Americans recycled the roughly 130 million cell phones disposed of annually, the energy saved would power more than 24,000 homes.

Also, many organizations look for cell phones for soldiers and victims of domestic abuse, among others. Many will send you a free mailing label.

As to manufacturer take-back programs, we’ve come a long way, baby: http://epa.gov/osw/partnerships/plugin/partners.htm

In a non-scientific experiment, last week I tested the state of the trade-in market for my Samsung cell phone and Canon camera.

I learned:

  • Costco and Samsung would provide prepaid shipping labels for these “no-value” items;
  • Gazelle (a national recycler) would ship electronics items with value for free;
  • Canon would charge $6 to recycle the camera;
  • Best Buy would ship both for free – AND give me a $24 gift card for the camera. Plus, I could drop them off at any Best Buy.

So look in your closets, do your homework, and decide whether to donate or trade-in your electronics. As for me, I’ll keep the phone and camera – and wouldn’t trade my family for the world!

About the author:  Lucy Casella is a somewhat technologically-challenged neo-Luddite and Strategic Planner in Region 1.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. w harter permalink
    February 16, 2012

    Granted that recycling sounds good and protrays a good image, but does it always result in a monetary savings? When one calculates monetary savings consideration must be given to include labor to sort, handle, ship, receive, clean and on and on. Now wouldn’t it make sense instead to train people to repair our “stuff” in lieu of just living in a “throw away society”. Also, in reference to just the 130,000,000 cell phones thrown away each year, what if we manufactured them in the USA instead of overseas. Think what a savings that would be in creating jobs, solving the home repo problem, reducing reliance on gov’t “give away” programs.

  2. www.nowbyb.com permalink
    February 16, 2012

    the article talks much and i will back next time to learn more

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 21, 2012

    I don’t understand how they can argue that it’s better to landfill their old electronics just because there’s a $10 fee to recycle.
    I also don’t understand how you can live so far from a recycling centre! I thought the Government wanted to promote recycling – first step, make it accessible to everyone.

    I’m glad you found Costco’s recycling service. That’ll earn them some goodwill.

  4. Sinnadurai permalink
    February 26, 2012

    At the collection centre you can cannibalise electrical and electronic equipments, collect parts in good shape and sell them to poor countries at low price as spares instead of throwing away as landfill. The metal/plastic body or frame and connecting wires,pipes,hose, insulation etc of equipment may be recycled.

  5. Suri Cruise permalink
    March 14, 2012

    There are recycling centers in every major city where you can bring your old electronics in for trade in. You can also bring them to Vaporizer Store for immedate disposal via high energy vaporization.

  6. chicbear.com permalink
    April 1, 2013

    Whether you’re disposing of your old boxy monitor or upgrading your flat-screen monitor, these devices are recyclable. You’ll likely have to make use of a drop-off or take-back program.

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