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Terra Cycle Pushes E-waste Collection Boundaries With Mice Brigade

Leon Kaye | Wednesday September 21st, 2011 | 0 Comments
Terracycle recycling process

Terracycle recycling process

“I see dead computer equipment. They are everywhere. And they DO know they are dead.”

Or at least obsolete.

It used to be our homes were full of photo albums and reading material.  While that may still be true of some of our homes, now our houses and apartments are full of unwanted desktop computers, obsolete laptops that boast less memory than our smart phones, and a spaghetti-like mess of cables and cords.  Add the keyboards and mice that we used to click on those digital computers, and that is quite a heap of electronic waste (e-waste) in our closets, under our beds, and in our basements.

Of course the waste does not stop with the unwanted electronic equipment.  Many of the computers we use to connect to the digital word are energy hogs.  In fact, some suggest that the cable boxes in our homes consume more energy than our refrigerators.  All around the e-waste from use and disuse is sobering, reminds Tom Szaky of TerraCycle.  Two million tons of e-waste is pitched in the USA alone annually.

Much remains to be done reduce our generation of e-waste.  TerraCycle is one company taking steps in the right direction.  The New Jersey-based firm, partnering with Logitech, has launched the Keyboard and Mouse Brigade.  The program allows users to box up and send TerraCycle unwanted unwanted keyboards and computer mice.  TerraCycle, in turn, promises to churn the discarded equipment into new products.  Customers need to only collect about 20 pieces of equipment per box and TerraCycle offers free shipping via UPS.  In turn, senders can either collect points to redeem as charitable gifts or have donated to the non-profit of their choice–and they can suggest new uses for the waste that TerraCycle collects.

Like any e-waste recycling program, however, TerraCycle’s has a ways to go in order to gain consumer acceptance.  So far the drive has raised about US$140–at two cents for each piece of computer equipment, the return has not proven to be much of a motivator.  Similar to the slow pace at which it takes most recycling programs to scale, it will take time for TerraCycle and Logitech’s combined efforts to pick up steam.  Among the largest barriers to effective e-waste recycling is convenience and proximity–education and more action by electronics manufacturers will be key.

Programs that would allow old equipment to be exchanged for more modern, energy efficient equipment could have a role in reducing e-waste.  Another TriplePundit writer has urged Apple to consider solar-powered iPads, and Logitech has earned favorable reviews for its solar powered keyboard for Macs.  Solar-powered gadgets and accessories not only have the “wow” factor (if they work well), but they would also be another nice carrot to encourage more of us to pitch our e-waste responsibly.  Achieving the goals of waste diversion, recycling, and energy efficiency simultaneously would be the holy grail of any retailer, electronics manufacturer, or wireless carrier.

Leon Kaye is a consultant, writer, and editor of GreenGoPost.com and also contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.  He lives in Silicon Valley.


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