Some Best Buy stores in Iowa are part of a pilot project designed to encourage consumers to recycle old computers, cell phones and TVs. The electronics giant is accepting the items for free at 117 stores in eight states.
Bill Nichols of Ames was returning a couple of old computer monitors at a Best Buy. He had been holding onto the units after another business wanted to charge him 40 dollars for a disposal fee. "I went to a metal salvage company and they said they would take the monitors, but they would charge me for that," Nichols said.
Best Buy launched the pilot project, which runs through August, after pressure from environmentally-minded shareholders. The activists say, currently, only about 15-percent of discarded computers and TVs are being recycled. Much of that "e-waste" and it’s poisons end up in landfills. At the Ames store, services manager Travis Welsh says they’re getting several items a day.
"I am shocked sometimes at the sheer age of some of the products being brought in," Welsh said. "But obviously people have been holding on to them because they don’t have a good way of getting rid of them. I’ve seen some TVs from the ’70s, some very old computers that there should be no reason to hold on to anymore….Apple 2-E’s and the like."
In Iowa, state law bans hazardous waste from landfills and that should include old electronics, but regulators say the law is not strictly enforced. Environmentalists say the free Best Buy drop-offs are particularly timely now. "As You Sow" is the shareholder activist group which encouraged Best Buy to expand its recycling. Director Conrad MacKerron is worried that even more old televisions could start showing up in landfills once the nation shifts its TV standard from analog to digital next year.
"(That) was part of the reason to approach Best Buy now, about 8 to 9 months before the expected switchover," MacKerron said. "We want to avoid a situation of old television sets sitting out on the sidewalks in the coming months." At the Ames store, old TVs are making up about half of the recycled material.