Consumers often do not know where
to take their old electronics. They’ve
heard that throwing old computers,
TVs and mobile phones in the garbage
have the potential to harm the environment
once the gadgets reach the landfill.
Therefore, many consumers store their
old electronics in drawers, closets,
basements or garages.
“I think there is hesitancy among
consumers to expend too much effort
to get rid of electronics that they
no longer want,” said Tom Muhs, president
and chief manager at Engaged Recycling
LLC. “It’s more convenient to just
leave them in the basement.”
More recycling operators like Engaged
Recycling, through its website MyBoneYard.com,
are trying to counter this hesitancy
by providing consumers with ways
to recycle their old electronics.
The Minneapolis-based recycler launched
its online e-recycling effort at
the Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas in January last year.
MyBoneYard.com offers consumers free
shipping for old electronics and
in some cases rewards, which includes
payments on a pre-paid Visa card.
“Once you get consumers started in
the process, even when you can’t
offer a reward, they are more willing
to package it up and make sure it
is responsibly recycled,” Muhs said.
Engaged Recycling is a partnership
between Young America Corp., Eco
International LLC and The Wireless
Source, Inc. Young America is a sweepstakes
and rebates company. Eco International
recycles larger electronic devices,
such as computers and televisions,
and the Wireless Source handles mobile
phones and music players.
“MyBoneYard.com is truly the simple, safe
and smart way to recycle electronics,” Muhs
said. The process is simple because it is
online. It is safe because every device is
sent directly into owner-operated facilities
for recycling or reselling. Muhs said it
is smart because it offers rewards that encourage
consumers to recycle.
Without much in the way of promotion, more
consumers are starting to use MyBoneYard.com.
“We haven’t put a lot of effort behind marketing.
It has just been word-of-mouth,” Muhs said.
“Our focus has been in creating private-label
and co-branded versions for clients that
include manufacturers, retailers and charitable
Clients include the Army & Air Force
Exchange Service, the USO, the Humane Society
and others. The groups have the capability
to track recycling donations.
Engaged Recycling has one facility that is
responsible for phones, music players, GPS
devices and other small electronics. Those
items, shipped by United States Postal Service,
go to a facility near Detroit. Larger items,
shipped by UPS, go to one of three facilities
located in either New York, Texas or California.
Muhs said the company is also in the process
of building a network of drop-off locations
at various retail locations.
The old electronics are sent to owner-operated
facilities where the product is triaged and
then data-cleared. All hard drives, for example,
are pulled from every computer and the data
is destroyed. Drives intended for repurposing
go through an automated process, where the
drives are erased, written full with dummy
data, erased, rewritten again and erased
one final time. Unusable hard drives are
“We feel it is important to have a closed-loop
process, where we know what is going on,”
Muhs said. “We make sure we are independently
audited and certified.”
TechForward, Inc. also has a plan to help
consumers get rid of unwanted electronics
at TechForward.com. It offers consumers buyback
plans. But the company does not consider
itself a recycler, said Jade Van Doren, chief
While recyclers provide an outlet for old
or broken devices, Van Doren said most recyclers
do not offer value back to consumers for
their products. Others, like trade-in services,
take working devices that consumers no longer
want, but only give the consumer a fraction
of the market value. In contrast, he said,
TechForward offers to lock-in the trade-in
values upfront for consumers at the time
of sale of the original device.
“Our customers know how much they can get
back for their devices if and when they decide
to upgrade,” Van Doren said. “Our Guaranteed
Buyback plans help customers upgrade their
consumer electronics more affordably, easily
and environmentally responsibly by guaranteeing
future trade-in values for electronics at
the point and time of sale, making the return
process easy with free return shipping.”
Van Doren said the downturn in the economy
is not hurting the Los Angeles-based company,
which uses a network of partners to receive,
refurbish, resell and recycle the devices.
He said that TechForward expects to see higher
volumes this year.
The United States Environmental Protection
Agency estimates that 68 percent of consumers
throw old devices in drawers, closets or
basements when they are done with them. “We
believe that’s because they have no clear
path for what to do with them,” Van Doren
said. “We provide such a path upfront when
they first purchase their device.”
There is a growing awareness among consumers
of the need for recycling electronics, said
Parker Brugge, vice president of environmental
affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association
(CEA). Research by the Arlington, Virginia-based
trade group reveals that 87 percent of consumers
think that recycling electronics is important.
Brugge said that the industry is trying to
draw attention to the need for electronics
recycling and give clear information on why
and how to recycle. CEA promotes electronics
recycling to consumers through its online
resource, myGreenElectronics.org, which includes
a zip-code searchable database of electronics
“Nearly all major electronics manufacturers
have introduced or expanded their electronics
recycling programs over the last year,” Brugge
said. “However, it is the CEA’s position
that a federal solution is needed to help
make electronics recycling easy.”