According to the EPA, consumer electronics accounted for almost 1.5 percent of 250 million tons of trash in 2006, and according to a report from the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, in 2006, 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste was recycled, up from 10 to 15 percent in 2003. This WSJ article notes that many major retailers have started or expanded initiatives to encourage the increase of electronics recycling.
Last year, Best Buy initiated a program that sponsors drop-off events around the country, and in October, Office Depot began selling “recycling” boxes that customers can fill with office items such as laptops and fax machines. Last summer, Wal-Mart held a pilot take-back day at 350 of its stores, and HP announced it had reached one billion pounds of recycling sooner than expected. Apple and Dell, the article notes, will take old computers back, and Sony also started a take back program in September. Until mid-March, Sony offers customers a $100 credit for a new TV if they bring in an old one.
The article noted that one area of concern is fluorescent light bulbs. In 2007, almost 300 million compact fluorescent light bulbs were sold in the U.S., according to the DOE. But these bulbs contain mercury, and according to Paul Abernathy, the executive director of the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers, only an estimated 25 percent of these bulbs are recycled. Across the country, there are little more than two dozen licensed facilities for processing mercury waste, he said.
Another problem, noted Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the TakeBack Coalition, is that roughly 50 to 80 percent of electronic waste that goes to recyclers ends up in developing nations, an issue National Geographic recently covered.