I recycled some electronics today at Best Buy.

An iMac. Three printers. A wireless phone. A 17″ Sony Trinitron. A scanner. A clock radio. A bathroom scale. All of it given over to Best Buy for recycling. You can learn about their recycling at their FAQ. All in all its a great feeling to know that something I’ve used for years, sometimes with frustration, sometimes with satisfaction, has at the end, not been turned into rubbish in a landfill, where toxic metals would leach into the ground water, or where precious metals such as copper or gold would be lost, or where plastics that can be turned into new plastics are wasted or where a perfectly good consumer electronic could be repaired is otherwise lost.

According to Best Buy: 

The products are removed from our stores through third party logistics, consolidated and then delivered directly to one of our contracted recycling partners. The recyclers will then determine if the product can be repaired, repurposed or recycled. Using various technologies our recyclers dismantle the electronics, separating out various commodities (Plastics, Glass, Metals, etc) which are repurposed into new products or delivered to a specialized recycler to be further processed and repurposed. The extent to which all of the commodities of any electronics can be recycled will depend on the composition of the unit. To ensure all products collected for recycling through Best Buy are handled and processed responsibly, we partner directly with qualified and respected recycling companies.

Best Buy details their recycling standards, including a list of their partners. Compliance with regulations is important, as not all ewaste recyclers do:

Best Buy follows EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal Program. This program began initially to coordinate responsible disposal of products containing ozone depleting chemicals. But it has expanded to encourage public-private partnerships in recycling e-waste such as my iMac.

As part of the program, EPA serves as a technical clearinghouse on responsible appliance disposal program development and implementation; calculates annual and cumulative program benefits in terms of ODS and GHG emission savings and equivalents and, as available, potential cost savings; and provides partner recognition for achievement, such as through press releases, brochures, articles, and awards.

RAD partners include utilities, retailers, local governments, manufacturers, universities, and other interested organizations. In addition to public recognition, joining the program may also serve as a way to document climate efforts, and may help partners meet any voluntary commitments or pledges they may have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Partners may also reap additional environmental benefits – in the form of reduced energy consumption – by encouraging appliance owners to retire old inefficient appliances that may consume between two and four times more energy than new units.

The benefits of this program, according to EPA are immense.

I think this is an excellent example of how government can help create positive efforts by American businesses. The establishment of standards, and the coordination of efforts has encouraged private businesses to work together for all of our benefit.

I don’t know what inspired Best Buy to begin its recycling program. I don’t know whether it was for publicity, to encourage sales by drawing consumers to purchase replacements for their used electronics from Best Buy, or if the management of the company had an epiphany one day and decided they could make a profit by selling waste to recyclers while helping the environment.

Whatever the reason, it has clear benefit to me. Had I known about this program two years ago, I could have saved a damaged monitor from ending up in a landfill.

But now I do. I’m glad to know that when my new TV dies, I can get Best Buy to take it as well. I feel a little better about my contribution to the environment can be a little more positive when I make a choice about purchasing a new electronic toy for my house.  

Best Buy has done more than just help me with my consumer electronic waste. They’ve made me feel better about myself. And that’s a great thing.

Disclosure: I am not a shareholder, nor are any of my family members shareholders in Best Buy.