Enforcement and Assistance in New England
Recycling Electronic Waste
Electronic equipment has become an indispensable part of our everyday life - TV’s, MP3s, computers, cell phones, GPS devices. Americans own more than 3 billion electronic products. Nationwide, approximately 2.2 million tons of electronic products entered the municipal waste stream in 2005. Most of this waste ended up in landfills, and only a small percentage was recycled.
The problem with electronic products in the waste stream is that they often contain metals (cadmium, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium or chromium VI) and other materials (brominated flame retardants) that may be hazardous to human health and the environment if not properly managed. Our goal is to keep these contaminants out of the waste stream through reuse and recycling.
To begin to assess the issue of recycling electronic products, we provided grant funds to the Product Stewardship Institute to partner with Staples, Inc., one of the largest office products company, to pilot test an electronics take-back program. In addition, 10 manufacturers and a national recycler supported the pilot. The test ran for 6 weeks in 2004 in 25 Staples retail stores throughout New England. Staples collected 5,250 items, diverting more than 115,000 pounds of electronics from the waste stream.
In May of 2007, Staples launched a nationwide computer and office technology recycling program, based in part on the data we collected in the pilot program funded in 2004. Staples is the first national retailer to offer computer recycling in stores every day. Under the terms of the program, all Staples stores will accept used computers, monitors, laptops, printers, faxes and all hand-held electronics. This equipment will be handled and recycled in accordance with environmental laws. All product brands will be accepted, regardless of whether or not the equipment was purchased at Staples. A fee of $10 per piece of large equipment is charged to cover handling, transport, disassembly and recycling. Smaller pieces such as keyboards and mice will be recycled for free. This new program is in addition to its ongoing program to recycle cell phones, rechargeable batteries and printer cartridges. By making it easy to recycle, Staples is leading the way in taking significant action to handle electronic waste in an environmentally responsible manner.