Best Buy Pilot Recycling Program
According to engadget's
Best Buy offers up free electronics recycling in 117 stores
Buy has started a pilot recycling program in some of its stores in the
Baltimore, San Francisco, and Minnesota areas. Stores in those areas will now
accept up to two items per day, per household, including televisions and
monitors up to 32-inches, computers, cameras and other devices not including
microwaves, air conditioners. or appliances.
I've used Office Depot's recycling
program. You can buy boxes in several different sizes into which you can
place electronic items to be recycled. You bring the boxes back to the store
where someone checks that the items they contain are on the list of those
that Office Depot states they will recycle when you buy the boxes. The cost
of the boxes depends on their size. A small box is $5, a medium one is $10,
and a large one is $15. Details on the program are available at
Tech Recycling Services.
Staples also has a recycling program. Details on their program can be
Staples Soul - Recycling. According to the Staple's website, "A
recycling fee of $10 per piece of large equipment is charged to cover handling,
transport, product disassembly and recycling. Smaller computer peripherals such
as keyboards, mice, and speakers are accepted at no charge."
Engadget has information on other recycling services at
http://www.engadget.com/tag/recycling, including information on a U.S.
Postal Service recyling program where the Postal Service allows you to ship
items to a recycling company for free.
Another service I found mentioned in comments to a June 2, 2008 engadget
Staples to stock Flexplay self-destructing DVDs was
GreenDisk. GreenDisk recycles the
All forms of
electronic media and their cases: diskettes, zip disks, CDs, CD-Rs,
CD-RWs, DVDs et al, video tape (i.e. VHS), audio tape, game cartridges,
DAT, DLT, Beta or Digibeta, and virtually all other type of computer tapes.
Hard drives, Zip and Jazz
drives, jump drives, etc.
All forms of printer
cartridges including both inkjet and toner.
All types of cell phones,
pagers, PDAs and their chargers, cables, and headset accessories
All types of rechargeable
batteries (not regular alkaline ones) and their chargers
All of the small computer
accessories such as MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, hand-held scanners,
handheld games and other connected devices. (Technotrash Can Only)
All of the cords, cables,
boards, chips, etc. attached to or removed from a computer.
(Technotrash Can Only)
Environmental Impact of Hardware Disposal
Most people blithely dispose of old electronic equipment without any thought
to the environmental impact. But, if such equipment ends up in a landfill
or an incinerator, toxic chemicals can be released into the environment.
Electronic equipment, such as computers and monitors, may contain lead,
mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium. A Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor
may contain 4 to 5 pounds of lead4. Even the newer flat panel Liquid
Crystal Display (LCD) monitors will contain hazardous materials, though they
don't need the large amounts of lead required in the heavier CRT monitors,
which require the lead to shield the user from X-ray radiation generated by the
monitor. Mercury and lead have long been known to cause neurological damage.
Some have speculated that the lead in wine storage vessels, food, and plumbing
used by the Roman ruling classes was a major contributing factor in the
downfall of the Roman empire. Though the Romans were aware of the serious
health problems that could be caused by lead, they used it for many
purposes and didn't consider the long-term implications of everyday
use. Modern Americans use 10 times as much lead per person per year than the
ancient Romans did before the downfall of Rome5.
Mercury, too, can have devastating effects on the human body. Many may
be familiar with the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's
Alice in Wonderland.
The reason madness was associated with hatters is that mercury was commonly
used in the fur, felt, and hat industries of a few centuries ago7.
When Lewis Carroll published Alice in Wonderland in 1865, mercury was
widely used in the creation of the felt hats worn in England at that time and
the phrase "mad as a hatter had been in common use for almost
3 decades. The effects of mercury poisoning on hatters included erratic,
flamboyant behavior, excessive drooling, mood swings, and various debilities.
A hatter might developer what were known as "hatter's shakes", which were
characterized by severe and uncontrollable muscular tremors and twitching
limbs. Hatters with advanced cases of mercury poisoning sufferred from
hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms8.
Of the other harzardous substances in computers,
hexavalent chromium (trivalent Chromium is actually an important
component of a human diet) has been shown to cause high blood pressure, iron-poor
blood, liver disease, and nerve and brain damage in animals. The movie
Erin Brockovich is based on a true story of how Ms. Brockovich brought
to public attention the environmental contamination in the town of Hinkley in
the Mojave Desert resulting from the use of hexavalent chromium as an
anti-corrosive in the cooling tower of a gas compressor station in the town.
Residents of the town had been experiencing an array of health problems, such
as liver, heart, respiratory and reproductive failure, Hodgkin disease,
frequent miscarriages, and cancers of the brain, kidney, breast, uterus,
and gastrointestinal systems at an alarming rate. As a result of Ms.
Brockovich's actions, the town's residents were successful in seeking damages
from PG&E, which was responsible for the gas compressor station9.
But no amount of money can bring a loved one back from the dead or restore
lives ruined by devastating health problems.
Cadmium, also found in computers, is a known carcinogen and chronic exposure
to dust or fumes containing cadmium can irreversibly damage the lungs. Eating
food or drinking water contaminated with high levels of cadmium severely
irritates the stomach, causing vomiting and diarrhea. An accumulation of
cadmium in the body can lead to kidney failure. Cadmium stays in the body
a long time and can build up in the body to dangerous levels through many years
of low level exposure10. For further information on the health risks
posed by exposure to cadmium, see the
entry at the Corrosion Doctors
So, if you don't want to contaminate your own or
someone else's air or water, you should not just dump your outdated computers,
monitors, and other electronic equipment in the trash.
The Your Planet section of an article,
Is Your Computer Killing You?, lists a number of alternatives
to simply throwing the equipment in the trash. An 800 number, 1-800-CLEANUP,
is listed for state-specific information for the U.S. on how to safely
discard such equipment. You can also visit
Earth 911 for general
recycling information as well as information specifically related to the
disposal of cell phones and computers.
InformationWeek article also lists steps you can take to minimize health
problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and eyestrain, associated with
prolonged computer use.
Some computer manufacturers, such as
Dell, have their own recycling programs. Dell will recycle your unwanted
PC or computer electronics for a flat fee per item. If you buy a new Dell
desktop or laptop, you can select the free recycling option at the time of
purchase to recycle your old PC and monitor.
Is Your Computer Killing You?
By Lee Hamrick
Small Business Pipeline
January 18, 2006
Disposal of Old Computer Equipment
A Mounting Environmental Problem
By Michael J. Meyer, Waleed Abu El Ella, and Ronald M. Young
The CPA Journal
A Publication of the New York State Society of CPAs
Lead Poisoning: A Historical Perspective
By Jack Lewis
EPA Journal - May 1985
United States Environmental Protection
Lead in history
Mad as a hatter
Chromium health and environment
Cadmium health and environment