Electronic waste collection isn’t for sissies. The waste itself usually contains toxic compounds and requires special handling. That special handling cost money, so if you’re going to collect these materials, you’d better have a good idea of who’ll buy them from you (hopefully, at a profit). And, finally, you need to insure that said buyer won’t be dumping said material in a developing country: despite lots of attention on this issue, that still happens with about 25% of e-waste that comes from the developing world.
So, you can be forgiven for greeting the news that Best Buy has met a goal of recycling 1 billion pounds of electronic waste with some skepticism. Yeah, but they’re dumping it in Africa, right? Or they’re raising prices to cover the losses created by this “sustainable” program? Or, they’re not really training their workers how to handle the materials, putting them at risk? All make good narrative points for the “evil big box store” story…
Fortunately, Best Buy not only collects all that waste, but handles it responsibly: the company celebrated the milestone with recycling partner Electronics Recyclers International, a certified e-Stewards recycler. ERI’s CEO John Shegerian noted:
We celebrate Best Buy, for developing what has become the largest retail recycling program in the world — recycling more than 400 pounds of e-waste every minute their stores are open! It is a great honor and privilege to partner with such a forward thinking and dedicated organization — we are proud and humbled to be able to help them achieve these remarkable goals.
While ERI is the only recycler used by the retail store with e-Stewards certification, the company has built a track record for transparency and responsibility, according to Basal Action Network (which runs the certification program). Best Buy’s also managing to meet ambitious e-cycling goals while watching the bottom line: a 2012 Greenbiz article notes that the free program was “just barely” profitable at that point… but that’s still pretty impressive.
So, yes, there’s definitely something to celebrate here, including the fact that Best Buy plans to collect another two billion pound of electronic waste in the next six years. That’s great news, as is the fact that more of us are taking the easy steps of returning our used electronics for repair, refurbishing, and/or recycling.
Got thoughts on Best Buy’s program? Share them with us…
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