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Apple Will Recycle Old PCs for Free

| Tuesday August 16th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Do you have an old desktop or notebook just lying in the house? You’re not alone – there are estimated 68 million computers stockpiled in homes and offices across America. Apple aims to rectify the problem.

Last week Apple announced it is expanding its reuse and recycling options to computers from any manufacture. According to AppleInsider, if your product qualifies for reuse — meaning it has monetary value — you’ll receive an Apple gift card equivalent to its fair market value. If your product does not have a monetary value, Apple will recycle it at no cost to you. The website MacRumors reports that Apple also expanded its trade-in program to allow users to send in their used iPhone and iPad devices for gift cards.

The process itself is very easy and user friendly. You can start by getting a preliminary valuation for your old devices on Apple’s website, provided by PowerON, a company Apple partnered with to run its reuse program. If you’re OK with the estimate you receive, you need to fill in your contact details and then PowerON will provide convenient prepaid options to package and ship your product to their facility. You send your computer then and after a short time receive your Apple gift card.

If you learn from the initial estimate that your old computer or monitor has a “zero-dollar fair market value,” you can still recycle it for free with Apple’s help through their partnership with WeRecycle. The recycling option itself is not new, but the zero price tag is. In the past, according to MacRumors, Apple had offered free recycling of all old Macs as well as PC systems just for customers purchasing Macs. Old, non-Apple-branded computers and displays were processed for a $30 fee to cover shipping. Now the company is offering free recycling of all brands of computers and displays, regardless of whether the user is purchasing a new Mac.

So the good news is that getting rid of your old computer responsibly is becoming easier thanks to Apple. The (relatively) bad news is that if you plan to use this platform to make some good money out of your old device you’ll probably be disappointed. It’s not that you won’t get some money if your device has a market value, but it will probably be less than what you can get on Craigslist, eBay and other marketplaces.

The release itself addressed this issue, trying to be as straightforward about it as possible:

PowerOn’s estimated value of a functional, first generation iPad in very good condition is $165, for example. Users may likely be able to find their own second hand buyer for relatively new products in good condition and fetch a higher price.

Apple added that its buyback option might be more attractive in cases where the devices are damaged or dysfunctional, and therefore it is more difficult to get good value for them.

Not everyone appreciated Apple’s new offer. Some of the comments on MacRumors forums complained about the low estimates given to their old device. The forum member mattraehl, for example, wrote: “They are definitely not paying anything close to fair market value. It seems more like 50% of current selling prices on eBay.” He concluded that “this might be nice for someone who doesn’t want to hassle with eBay or Craigslist, but you’re paying for the convenience for sure.”

Another common complaint is that the payment is made in Apple gift cards and not in old good cash. Some claimed that it shows the real goal of Apple is not to encourage you to recycle more but to buy more of their products. It might be true that from a user’s standpoint it’s better to receive cash, but Apple is not a recycling company, or even RecycleBank whose core business is based on providing endless reward options. Apple is a business that wants to encourage recycling and sales at the time. The gift cards provide a reasonable solution to encourage both. Those who are not interested in buying Apple’s products can always go to Craigslist or eBay, where anyway there’s a better chance for them to receive a greater value.

In any event, I believe the big news here is the recycling options Apple is providing the tens of millions of Americans who just don’t know what to do with their old computers. Although regulation is getting a bit tighter and more recycling options are becoming available, it is still pretty difficult to recycle old devices without putting considerable effort into it. Unless you live in the state of NY, which in that case you really don’t need Apple to recycle comfortably with WeRecycle, Apple’s offer is one of most convenient and easy options you have right now.

Apple’s reuse and recycling program is far from being perfect or even close to it, but in times where e-waste is becoming a growing environmental problem, its new policy and the convenient recycling and reusing options it provide is a significant step forward and should be applauded. Who knows, it might even help you to finally remove your old computer out of your house.

Image credit: Ron Wiecki, Flickr Creative Commons

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.


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  • alex

    Thanks for this post. If you’re anywhere near Mission Viejo then you have got to go to The Shops at Mission Viejo for your back to school clothes. They, in conjunction with the city and Waste Management are offering a Super Recycler award to retailers. http://youtu.be/UysU018cxCE

  • alex

    hook me up