How companies keep us buying new stuff, and how to recycle the rest

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Wikicommons, Victor Grigas

Manufacturers own the problem and solution

The consumer electronics industry has stepped up its efforts. Through the trade association CEA, a number of industry-wide initiatives have been kicked off. As part of the CEA's eCycling push, manufacturers such as Apple have vowed to build greener products starting at the design stage when it says, "we create compact, efficient products that require less material to produce." CEA has also be begun an aggressive recycling campaign with a goal to collect 1 billion pounds of e-waste annually by 2016. Greenpeace estimates up to 50 billion pounds of of e-waste is created each year ( PDF).

To help consumers buy gear that is environmentally sound, Greenpeace created a ranking system for consumer electronics companies. It ranks companies based on criteria that looks at things such as if they use a certified recycling partners, whether or not they sell products that are free from hazardous substances and the extent to which they consider durability, streamlining of devices, re-usability and ease of repair.

(See related video: The environmental dangers of e-waste around the world)

According to Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics , HP was the greenest on the list last year, followed by Dell, Nokia and Apple. On the other end of the spectrum, the environmental group determined that RIM, Toshiba and LG are not as environmentally conscious as they could be.

Companies combat waste

To combat the problem many big tech brands offer local drop off centers for old electronics, free shipping labels to send old tech gear back for recycling, and offer coupons for discounts on future purchases when consumers recycle. Here are links to recycling programs run by PC makers and consumer electronics companies:

Apple offers gift cards for old Apple gear and gives 10 percent discounts on new iPod purchases when you recycle your old iPod.

Best Buy will take back nearly all consumer electronics gear advertising, "no matter where you bought it, we'll recycle it."

Canon runs several recycling programs online and with retail partners for its printer hardware, toner cartridge, and digital camera gear.

Dell's recycling program has 2000 physical drop-off recycle centers and runs a mail-back recycling program for print supplies and hardware.

Hewlett-Packard runs several recycling programs for print supplies, PC hardware, cellphones, batteries.

Samsung Electronics allows you to print a pre-paid postage label to send any old cellphone back to Samsung for recycling.

If you still are stuck trying to figure out where to recycle your gear the Environmental Protection Agency runs an electronics donation and recycling site that offers links to resources. The CEA, the consumer electronics trade association, also links to recyclers through it Green Gadgets website.

If your device still works, why not sell it? Plenty of websites buy used equipment or offer trade-up programs, including Amazon, Best Buy, BuyMyTronics, eBay, Ecosquid, Gazelle, and Glyde. And of course, there’s always Craigslist.

The Gazelle site is typical of many buy-back sites. It helps you calculate what your old gear is worth along with sites such as WorthMonkey. But before recycling or donating your PC, make sure to remove any data from it.

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