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Computer makers responsible for recycling

September 3, 2008

ttbtceq2San Antonio Express-News
L. A. Lorek

Computer companies now must provide free recycling programs for Texas customers. A state law passed last year that went into full effect Monday mandates that PC makers take back old computers, keyboards, monitors, mice and other parts.

“We think everyone can win when electronic waste has to meet its maker,” said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Texas became the fourth state to enact a computer recycling law, behind Minnesota, Maine and Maryland. The law applies to every computer maker from Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to the mom and pop computer making shop.

“It doesn’t matter where the computers are made, whether it’s a foreign or domestic company, if you sell your computer in Texas, you have to provide free, convenient recycling,” Schneider said.

Under the new law, the burden of recycling the computers falls on the manufacturer and not the retailer or any government agency, she said. Retailers that sell their own brand of computers, though, would be subject to the new law. It applies to all computers.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a list of computer brands and manufacturers and their recycling programs at

For example, Lenovo has partnered with UPS and Eco International to recycle old Lenovo Inc. and IBM computers.

Electronics waste recycling has become a huge problem in the U.S., with only 18 percent of all discarded computers, monitors and other equipment recycled annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The waste, which goes to landfills, can become dangerous because it contains toxic substances such as lead and mercury. Recycling computers is good for the environment.

“Recycling 1 million desktop computers prevents the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of over 17,000 passenger cars,” the EPA reports.

With the new mandatory recycling law, Texans — either as consumers or local taxpayers — don’t have to pay for disposing for their computers, Schneider said.

Just six years ago, the Texas Campaign for the Environment got into a huge spat with Dell over its recycling practices. Outside the Consumer Electronics Show and at Dell’s annual meeting in Austin, the environmental group’s members protested Dell’s lack of consumer recycling options.

Dell has since become a leader nationwide in computer recycling. In 2004, Dell started a program partnering with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas in Austin allowing consumers to take old PCs to Goodwill, which recycles and resells what it can. Dell has since expanded that program. It partners with several others, including Goodwill Industries San Antonio.

Dell will pick up any old Dell-branded computers or parts from consumers in its residential program, said Kristyn Rankin, its compliance programs director. Dell also will recycle old computers, regardless of brand, from any customer who buys a new Dell computer, she said.

“We are big proponents of the new law,” Rankin said.

The law ends up creating more recycling options for consumers without creating more bureaucracy or becoming a burden to local government, she said.

In San Antonio, Goodwill recycles 70,000 computers annually and processes 20,000 pounds of computers, monitors and other items each month, Goodwill spokeswoman Dawn C. White said. Goodwill also works with other companies to recycle computers, she said.

“This may be a burden on some businesses, and we want to be a resource for them,” White said. “It helps us to generate revenue, and it may provide a gently used computer to someone who needs it at an affordable price.”


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