On Thursday, Sony followed in the footsteps of Dell in rolling out no-charge recycling services for its products. The Sony Take Back Recycling Program is designed to encourage consumers to recycle and dispose of electronic devices in an environmentally responsible way.
Sony is partnering with 75 Waste Management Recycle America eCycling drop-off centers throughout the U.S. That makes it the first national recycling initiative stateside to see a major electronics manufacturer and a national waste management company work together.
"Providing the highest level of service and support doesn't stop once a purchase is made," Stan Glasgow, president and COO of Sony Electronics, said in a statement. "We believe it is Sony's responsibility to provide customers with end-of-life solutions for all the products we manufacture."
A Growing Problem
As the tech industry sees continued growth, the amount of electronic waste is increasing. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that in 2005, used or unwanted electronics amounted to about 1.9 to 2.2 million tons. Of that, some 1.5 to 1.9 million tons were primarily discarded in landfills, and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.
By recycling old electronics products, useful materials -- such as glass, plastic, and metals -- can be collected and reused in the manufacture of other products. Recycling not only minimizes the amount of waste disposed, but also minimizes the extraction of new raw materials from the earth and resources required for processing, saving energy, and reducing greenhouse gases in the process.
An Expanding Solution
As the Sony Take Back Recycling program expands, Sony said, the number of eCycling drop-off centers will increase to at least 150 sites within a year. Sony's stated goal is to have at least one location in every state through a combination of Waste Management Recycle America locales and its external service partners.
Sony and Waste Management Recycle America are working toward the goal of having enough drop-off locations in all 50 states so there is a recycling center within 20 miles of 95 percent of the U.S. population.
Consumers will have the option of shipping their used Sony electronics products to selected Waste Management Recycle America locations. Glasgow said that by making the recycling of Sony products convenient, the company expects to reach its goal of recycling one pound of old consumer electronics equipment for every pound of new products sold.
Sony consumers do not have to pay to recycle Sony-branded electronics, and Waste Management's program allows consumers to recycle other manufacturers' electronics products at market prices.
Ben Aderson, technology policy counsel at the American Electronics Association, said there are many different approaches to electronics recycling. Some tech companies prefer an advanced recovery fee, also known as an e-fee, that charges the customers upfront at the time they purchase the electronics. A congressional bill is suggesting that route. Other tech companies, meanwhile, prefer to offer consumers a free recycling service.
"There is no industry consensus about the best way to handle electronics recycling," Aderson said. "But there is a consensus that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best approach because each product carries different recycling needs and challenges. Monitors are different than LCD televisions and cell phones, for example. Companies need the freedom to develop their own programs."