A number of companies have take back programs that allow customers to return products at the end of their life cycles. It’s an important trend because some products just can’t be put into a recycling bin outside of your house. Electronics, in particular, fit into that category. Consider a few statistics about electronic products in the U.S. In 2009, 438 million new electronic products were sold. A total of 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for end-of-life management in 2009, but only 25 percent were collected for recycling.
Trendwatching lists the “phenomenon of brands helping consumers recycle by taking back all old items from customers, and actually doing something constructive with them” as one of its green trends for 2012. It attributes the rise of this type of recycling by companies as coming from an increasing awareness among consumers of the “material and ecological value of stuff,” and dubs that awareness “eco-cycology”
Trendwatching points out something very important about take back programs: “These programs leave consumers no excuse to not recycle in 2012.” When it comes to electronics, before the rise of take back programs it was simply easier for people to just take their old TVs, DVD players and other end-of-life electronics to a local landfill. Now that stores such as Radio Shack and Best Buy have take back programs, there really is no excuse to not recycle worn-out electronics.
Not all take back programs are the same
Not all electronic take back programs are the same as the Electronics Take Back Coalition points out. Most of the electronics programs listed on the Coalition’s website do not use the e-Stewards certification program, including Best Buy. Since none of the companies listed uses e-Stewards, there is not way to know for sure if they are exporting “conflict” minerals, or those minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose sale is used to fund militias that terrorize the local population.
The Coalition gives one company’s take back program a “D” rating. The company is Lenovo and it is the fastest growing computer company in the world, according to the Coalition, with record profits last year. Lenovo is also the fourth largest computer program in the world. One of the reasons for Lenovo’s low grade is the fact that there is little transparency in regards to its take back program. As the Coalition says of the program, “There is little transparency on Lenovo’s site.” In fact, Lenovo does not disclose the recycling companies it uses. In contrast, Best Buy lists the recycling companies it uses on its website.
Photo: Wikipedia user, AvWijk