Best Buy announces ewaste recycling makes money

Yesterday, April 24, 2012, published a story about Best Buy’s ewaste recycling program being a profitable endeavor while remaining free to consumers by utilizing state manufacturer takeback laws. 

Today, the program generates two streams of revenue. First, Best Buy takes a cut from its recycling partners. When truckloads of old TVs, PCs and dryers go to its processing partners, the plastic, gold, lead, nickel and other materials recovered from the dismantled waste is sold to be remade into new materials. And while volatile, the prices for all of these commodities have generally been heading up over the past few years, raising the share that comes back to Best Buy. A very small percentage of the waste, Raudys estimates, ends up recovered and refurbished.

Secondly, Best Buy collects revenues from its partners: big, well-known electronics brands. “25 states have rules requiring that manufacturers recycle some share of what they sell every year,” Raudys said. “Our network can deliver efficiencies that [the electronics makers] can’t match, so they buy access to it.”

Best Buy has also been able improve its margins by steadily lowering the costs of collecting and transporting the consumer waste by improving workflows and boosting volumes, he said. Higher volumes of waste let Best Buy win more competitive rates from its recycling partners as well.


Best Buy has stepped up shown that this program works and generates revenue so why don’t other retailers like Walmart step up too? To learn more and encourage Walmart to do what Best Buy does, visit the TCE website here and . 

Texas Congress Member Introduces Federal Bill for Responsible Recycling

Today’s dispatch from USA Today:

Not all recyclers are created equal when it comes to the proper disposal of e-waste. Increased concerns about exportation of recycled e-waste polluting the water supply and contaminating soil in developing countries has become a hot-button issue internationally, domestically and locally. In this session of Congress, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, says he plans to resubmit a bill prohibiting the exportation of e-waste.

The Responsible Electronic Recycling Act (HR 2284) was introduced in the U.S. House in June 2011 by Representatives Gene Green (D-Houston), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Lee Terry (R-NE). In the U.S. Senate, the companion bill (S 1270) was introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). In addition, Dell, Apple, HP and Best Buy all support the bill.

To learn more about the many problems caused by exporting toxic electronic waste overseas, the best place to start is this 60 Minutes expose. It’s worth a watch!

Recycling Legislation on the Move

As the 2011 Texas Legislative Session winds down to a close, there are at least two bill to improve recycling that stand a good chance to pass. H.B. 695, sponsored by State Representative Alma Allen (D- Houston), would provide manufacturer-based recycling programs for mercury containing thermostats. S.B. 329, sponsored by State Senator Kirk Watson (D- Austin), would put manufacturers in charge of recycling their obsolete televisions.

These proposed bills would require manufacturers to pay for the collection, transportation, and recycling of waste from consumers, small business, schools, and local governments. Producer takeback recycling ends the existing system of local taxpayers subsidizing waste, shifting the cost of waste management from governments to producers. Producers have the control over design and should be responsible for the solutions. By making the producer responsible for their end of life products, there is a market-based incentive to start designing for reuse, recycling and with safer materials. In addition it levels the playing field to make it fair for everyone.

Justin M. Bowen, Las Vegas Sun-
“After the digital tv switch, a lot of people are going to say ‘no one’s going to want my old analog tv, I need to get rid of this,’ and we expect to see an e-waste tsunami of electronic trash headed for our landfills,” Robin Schneider with Texas Campaign for the Environment, said. 

Some television companies, such as Sony, Samsung, and LG, already have recycling programs, and they’re aiming high: they want to have recycling centers nearby for 95 percent of America’s population.

Mercury-added thermostats more mercury than any other household product. In fact, 6-8 tons of mercury from old thermostats is tossed into U.S. landfills each year. The disposal of mercury-containing products in our landfills and incinerators poses unique problems. In a landfill, mercury often breaks down into its more toxic, more dangerous organic form, methylmercury. In one study of landfill gas destined for venting, researchers found methylmercury at levels one thousand times higher than typically measured in open air. There are an estimated 50 million mercury-containing thermostats remaining in homes across America that have yet to be discarded.

Both of the proposed bills have received bi-partisan support, as well as support from local governments and the manufacturers themselves. The TV recycling bill has already passed though the Texas Senate, and both bills could pass though the Texas House within the next week.

Fish on Prozac? It’s Time to Take Your Old Meds In

On Saturday Sept. 25 there are events around the country for National Drug TakeBack Day. We don’t want these chemicals flushed down the toilet to pollute our water supplies and the frogs and other animals, or put in our landfills. So this Saturday there are events around Texas to drop off those items. Unfortunately, the big drug companies are still resisting taking responsibility for the end of life of their products. In the short-term there is this one-day event and also a smattering of community pharmacies that are willing to take back unused medicines. Check out the pharmaceuticals link on the left side of this website to get details.

Beware Sham “E-Cyclers”

This former farmer in China is picking chips off circuit boards by bathing them in acid. Photo: Basel Action Network

Several recent reports have put the spotlight on an issue TCE Fund has been working on since 2002: real, responsible recycling for electronic waste. Unfortunately, the majority of obsolete electronics said to be recycled in America is actually exported and dumped in developing nations across the globe! Discovery News has more:

“Recycling your electronic waste is a noble idea, but here’s the dirty little secret: even if you drop off your old electronics for recycling, it may never get recycled. As describes, some people fall victim to a scam called ‘fake recycling,’ and just describing it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Fake recyclers are organizations that approach well-meaning community groups like the Boy Scouts or the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help run a local ‘Recycling Day.’ The idea is that people from the community will bring in their old electronics to the legitimate organization’s Recycling Day event. The fake recycler will then haul that e-waste away, and export it to another country with lax environmental regulations.

The crazy thing is that none of this is illegal, but it’s definitely destroying the environment.”

We couldn’t agree more. If an American company claims to be recycling our old electronics, they shouldn’t be allowed to simply ship the toxic waste to poor, developing nations for a quick buck — they should actually be recycling it. Even people who don’t typically consider themselves environmental advocates should agree we need truth in advertising.

For a fool-proof list of certified, responsible electronics recyclers near you, visit the e-Stewards website.

Local, state officials look to curtail plastic bags

Here’s a great TV story from KVUE News Austin:

“Plastic bags are bad for the environment. Most are produced using oil, and, by some estimates, 90 percent end up dumped in a landfill or clogging up streams. But those free bags can also cost you money, even if you don’t use them. There are more and more proposals being drawn up at the local and state level to eliminate or place a tax on the bags.”

If you’re in Austin, this isn’t a new subject. In 2007 the Austin City Council asked its staff to evaluate options to reduce the use of plastic bags. Then in 2008 the Council passed a resolution and set the goal of reducing the flow of plastic bags into the waste stream by 50% by June 2009. At the request of retailers, the resolution relied mostly on a voluntary program. This was passed as an alternative to a plastic bag ban that was proposed by supporters of the Ban the Bags campaign. However, the voluntary program fell short of the 50% reduction goal, and retailers only recycled about 26% of the amount of plastic they purchased in 2008.

This year, the City of Brownsville became the first in Texas to pass an ordinance banning plastic bags. Wal-Mart and HEB stores in the Brownsville area supported the ban. Austin-based Whole Foods announced a complete ban on plastic bags in their stores. Last year, Natural Grocers, a small business with a branch in Austin, publicly announced that it ceased purchasing plastic bags for the sake of the environment and has saved around 13 million bags.

Texas Campaign for the Environment is helping Austinites urge City Council to take action and pass a ban on plastic bag this year. Involving the retailers to have input on the details is appropriate, but the time for voluntary efforts is over. But you should still recycle your plastic bags at grocery stores, and better yet, simply take reusable bags on your shopping trips. Here are more press reports on a potential plastic bag ban:

Group: Efforts to reduce plastic bag use failed
Environmentalists want a ban on the use of plastic bags
Austin should nix plastic bags, group says