Ewaste is our cell phones, TVs and computer equipment that don’t work or have become obsolete. It represents what we throw out, put in a storage location or ideally recycle.
How much ewaste does the United States produce yearly?
The estimate is that the United States produces 400 MILLION units of ewaste annually.
The breakdown looks like this:
140 million cell phones
200+ million computer products
30 million TVs
30 million units of “other.”
Why don’t I have better numbers to give you?
Because we don’t measure ewaste very accurately or in a timely manner.
And that is very telling. The United States has a problem of throwing away electronics that may still have some value and that definitely holds the potential of contaminating our water and soils if not probably disposed of. Yet, we have better reporting on daily sports scores than a waste stream that contains lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous wastes.
The EPA estimates we recycle about 18% of our ewaste. The rest of our ewaste is trashed in landfills and incinerators.
As You Sow is focused upon ewaste issues and helping companies develop recycling programs for electronics. Using a combination of pressure and solutions-based outreach they have successfully help major retailers move toward addressing their ewaste problem.
Today, Best Buy, the largest U.S. electronics retailer offers e-waste recycling, mostly for free, at all of its 1,006 U.S. stores. They have a “no matter where you bought it, we will recycle it” program for ewaste recycle.
Click on the links for these major computer manufacturers to see examples of their ewaste recycling commitments:
Here are two important best practices for business regarding how to align with customers and manage risk:
- Want to gain customer loyalty? Best Buy provides a great example of recycling as a path for enhancing brand equity and increasing consumer traffic. Customer feel they are buying from a company that has values and even if they are returning for recycling a product not bought at Best Buy the result is more foot traffic inside a Best Buy store. What business isn’t looking for more traffic inside their stores of customers who buy their product category?
- Mitigate risk by being proactive to a problem. Isn’t that what Apple, Dell and HP are doing in their recycling initiatives? Waste is a business liability and it can be a very costly one. The day where a company can assume that once their product is out the door it is no longer their waste management problem are ending.
Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017 that focuses upon the emerging smart, healthy and green economy. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles best practices of businesses making money going green.