Best Buy Helps Consumers Cut Down on “eWaste”

Not sure what to do with your old electronics when you buy the latest upgrade? Instead of tossing away old products and hoping the landfill will take care of them, head on over to Best Buy. With its innovative recycling programs and product lines geared toward protecting the environment, the technology giant is encouraging consumers to live more eco-friendly.

Launching its eCycling program in 2009, the company collects and recycles consumers’ old appliances and electronics, or “eWaste.” To date, Best Buy has collected more than 300 million pounds of eWaste for recycling.

At Best Buy’s Cambridge location, manager Sabrina Bellini says that the returned electronics often fill up two large storage bins in the back of the store. The products are picked up by one of the company’s recycling partners every two or three weeks.

“It’s a great program that not many people know about,” Bellini says. “But the people who do [know about it] seem to like it.” She notes that she has seen an increase in consumer participation in Cambridge over the last year.

One attractive aspect of the eCycling program is that most of the items Best Buy collects are recycled free of cost to the consumer, with few restrictions on what is accepted. Consumers can bring in electronics of any brand and any age, regardless of where they were originally purchased, and Best Buy will responsibly and safely dispose of them. Though lack of storage space may limit in-store returns—for example, TVs larger than 32 inches are not accepted—Bellini ensures that consumers are not left hanging.

“[We have] to limit a little in the store, but we can give you the resources to find another way to recycle your product,” she says.

For larger televisions and appliances like refrigerators and washers, Best Buy offers haul-away and pickup programs, which are available for a fee or when the old product is being replaced by a new one from Best Buy. A complete list of accepted technology is available on Best Buy’s recycling website. For the products that the company does not take, the website offers a list of other recycling programs where such products may be accepted.

If that old cell phone, laptop or iPod isn’t completely dead, Best Buy’s Buy Back and Trade-In programs give consumers the chance to get value from their old technology and possibly give it a second life through repurposing.

Best Buy customers can opt-in to Buy Back at the time of purchase, with the company guaranteeing to re-purchase the product at a pre-determined dollar amount for an upgrade. The Trade-In program allows consumers to trade their old technology for a Best Buy gift card worth the market value of the returned product. These programs currently cover cell phones, laptops, e-readers and gaming consoles, as well monitors and digital cameras.

Bellini explains that the company’s environmental initiatives stem from a perceived responsibility to the products. She says that since Best Buy manufactures and sells technology, it’s then the company’s duty to help consumers responsibly dispose of that technology with as little environmental impact as possible.

“It’s like, ‘I’m the cause of it [eWaste], so what can I do to monitor it?’” she says.

So far, Best Buy has made great strides with its eCycling and Buy Back programs, as well as with its line of Energy Star products. It’s now time for consumers to jump on the bandwagon.

Laura E. Franzini