Where Do Old CRTs Go to Die?

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Michael Newcomb (left) and Jerry Kocis, with some outdated gear.
Photograph: Blake Discher
Outdated 15-inch CRT monitors and PCs too poky to run Photoshop are piled in a back room that WorldWise, a Web design shop in Grand Blanc, Michigan, also uses as a kitchen. The company stacks so much equipment there, according to WorldWise co-founder Jerry Kocis, that "I think [employees] started going out so they wouldn't have to eat on top of old keyboards and other stuff."

Mounds of Monitors

Kocis is just one of many business owners who worry about the escalating problem of disposing of unwanted tech equipment cheaply, safely, and legally. For instance, a national stampede to LCD monitors leaves thousands of lowly CRTs, like WorldWise's 15-inchers, awaiting disposal.

In the third quarter of 2003, LCDs outsold CRTs for the first time; and Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research for ISuppli/Stanford Resources, reports that they're expected to dominate sales in 2004. But at least five states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia) have passed laws banning CRTs from their landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And monitors aren't the only problem. The National Recycling Coalition (NRC) has estimated that nearly 500 million PCs in the United States will become obsolete between 1997 and 2007.

Dell, Gateway, HP, and IBM all offer business and consumer recycling options. Some charge a moderate fee for taking old equipment from any manufacturer off your hands; several offer rebates good for new products to recyclers; and two might even pay you if they can sell your unwanted devices.

Big Blue Pays You?

IBM's recently expanded Asset Recovery Solutions buy-back program pays firms of any size for desirable used equipment. If that equipment has no resale value, the business pays IBM for proper disposal. Either way, the fees are determined in advance. However, equipment older than three years seldom qualifies for buyback. Note: Individuals are eligible for most of these business recycling programs.

If you don't want to pay fees, look for drop-off centers, recycling events, or rare municipal curbside pickups. But don't count on a charity to accept elderly equipment. Many charities are now struggling to avoid being overwhelmed with older technology that they must pay to dispose of. And don't forget to wipe your PCs' hard drives clean before they leave your offices.

As WorldWise plans a move to new quarters, Kocis says, it has to resolve the clutter issue. But even if the company has to pay, he says, the stuff in the kitchen isn't coming with it.

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