Best Buy announces its recycling program on a billboard in Times Square. Notice that the sign is made of disposed electronics. Photo: Francisco Collazo

E-waste–the garbage that takes the form of disposed electronics–is largely responsible for landfill overuse and health problems in communities where e-waste ends up.

Many people see electronics as difficult to recycle, as their local recycling programs don’t accept e-waste. Here in New York City, our periodic e-waste collection days were eliminated last year due to municipal budget cuts. It’s easier to throw these items away, even when we know that the consequences of doing so may harm the environment or other people.

Electronics retailer Best Buy is attempting to make e-waste disposal easier and less damaging to the environment and to communities by sponsoring an e-waste recycling program. If you have a TV, DVD player, computer or laptop, cables, cell phones, or other electronics you’d like to get rid of, Best Buy will accept them– even if they weren’t bought at their store— and work with third party vendors to recycle or repurpose the items.

It all sounds good, but upon hearing about the recycling program, I was somewhat suspicious: is Best Buy ensuring that these electronics won’t end up in developing countries, where they’ll be stripped of valuable components like copper wire, exposing people to harmful chemicals in the process?

Best Buy addresses such concerns in its FAQ section. In response to concerns like mine, they write:

Best Buy makes sure that the recyclers we work with adhere to the highest guidelines and standards so that the products customers bring into our stores for recycling don’t end up in landfills or in foreign countries, and that all hazardous materials are disposed of properly. We partner directly with a short list of qualified, respected recycling companies who ensure all products collected for recycling through Best Buy are handled responsibly. These recycling companies meet our standards, and we encourage them to examine and consider additional third-party standards for responsible practices (such as the EPA R2, eStewards, etc.). Please refer to our Consumer Electronics Recycling Standardsfor more information and a list of our partners.

If you’re interested in recycling your e-waste through Best Buy, stores in the US and in Puerto Rico are accepting drop offs (two items per person, per day) indefinitely. The store locator can help you identify a drop off point near you.

Not in the US? Please let us know of e-waste recycling resources in your city or country by leaving information in the comments section.

Community Connection:

Get more information about environmental responsibility on our Global Environmental Issues focus page.