eBay forms coalition to cut e-waste

Online forum will help consumers learn how to recycle old PCs--and potentially keep government regulators at bay.

LAS VEGAS--Internet auctioneer eBay has put together a coalition to make it easier for consumers to get rid of old computers, TV sets and other devices.

The Rethink Initiative will provide information about recycling so-called e-waste and make it easier for people to donate working, but no longer wanted, electronic devices, , CEO of eBay, said during a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show here.

"Half of the households in the U.S. have electronic products that work but are no longer in use," Whitman said. "Most consumers know not to dispose of electronic products in landfills, but they don't know what to do with them."

The centerpiece of the initiative is a Web site that will provide information about recycling and let consumers get in touch with local disposal companies or charities.

Among other hazards, old PCs often contain lead or cadmium, which can be hazardous to humans. Gartner estimates that about 133,000 PCs are retired or replaced by their original owners every day.

eBay will also continue to sell used electronic equipment on its Web site. Electronics have always been popular on eBay. Years ago, founder Pierre Omidyar put a broken laser pointer on the site for sale. "He described it as broken, but it sold for $14. He bought it for $21, so he thought, hmmm, there's a business in this," Whitman said.

Other members of the coalition include Gateway, Hewlett-Packard , IBM and Intel. Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, joined Whitman at the press conference.

"eBay, in the U.S., I think can serve as a neutral industry clearinghouse," Whitman said.

While Whitman discussed the hazards to the environment, she acknowledged that the companies aren't entirely motivated by altruism. California recently passed a law that requires retailers to charge consumers a $6 to $10 fee on electronics products to cover the cost of future recycling. Several other states and federal agencies are also contemplating passing more regulations on recycling.

"Unless we act to develop a market-based solution, the regulators will step in," she said. "We hope that will not be necessary."

 

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