Just how much tech junk is getting recycled?

Office Depot says it recycled about 1.5 million pounds of tech junk last year. How does that stack up against other company-sponsored recycling programs?

Correction at 9:20 a.m. PDT: The time span for Office Depot's figures is one year.

Last year, Office Depot recycled almost 1.5 million pounds of old tech equipment through its service for consumers, the company said Wednesday.

That sounds like a lot. It makes you realize how quickly all those landfills must be filling up since that figure represents only the junk from people who 1) actually bother to recycle, and 2) chose to go with Office Depot's recycling program.

For a comparison, I decided to check how other company-sponsored recycling programs are doing. Unfortunately, as sustainability expert Kevin Wilhelm told CNET, there is yet to be a standard way for companies to calculate such statistics. What's included in recycling statistics varies from company to company, but the data I dug up offers a rough idea of what's going on in this arena.

Staples, an Office Depot competitor, began offering an in-store recycling service in May 2007. It charges $10 per large item regardless of where you originally bought it; recycles small items like keyboards, mice, and speakers for free; and offers $3 in Staples rewards for Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark or Dell brand printer cartridges.

By the end of the 2007, Staples had recycled 2 million pounds of tech junk, including almost 24 million printer cartridges in the U.S., according to the company's 2007 sustainability report.

What about the computer manufacturers themselves?

Hewlett-Packard has had a recycling program since 1987 and in January 2009 launched a new program that offers money for old tech equipment . As of June 2007, the company had recycled more than 1 billion pounds of electronics and printer cartridges and expanded to include consumer programs in 50 countries. HP's new goal is to reach 2 billion pounds by the end of 2010.

Unlike Office Depot, which asks customers for pay $5, $10, or $15 for a box they can fill with everything from printers to digital cameras, HP offers credit that can be put toward the purchase of an HP product.

Apple has consumer recycling programs in 95 percent of the countries where it sells its computers. In 2007, it collected about "21 million pounds of e-waste," according to the company's 2008 environmental report.

Dell offers consumer recycling programs worldwide. In the U.S., it's free. Between 2006 and 2008, Dell recycled about 255 million pounds of its own products. Its goal is to recover about 275 million pounds by the end of 2009, according to its 2008 Global Corporate Responsibility Report.

Big Blue seems to have recycled the most, or at least calculated the most.

Between 1995 (when it began keeping track) and the end of 2007, IBM "collected and recovered (resold, refurbished, or recycled)" more than 1.5 billion pounds of product and product waste worldwide, according to the company's latest corporate sustainability report.

In the U.S., IBM offers consumer recycling programs on a state-by-state basis.

While recycling tech equipment is definitely a positive way to do your part for the environment, it's also important to keep your computer information secure. Always remember to properly wipe computers clean of your personal information before giving away or recycling them. Coincidentally, CNET's Seth Rosenblatt did a piece on wiping hard drives clean earlier this week.

Tags:
Tech Culture
About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Galleries from CNET
Tech industry's high-flying 2014
Uber's tumultuous ups and downs in 2014 (pictures)
The best and worst quotes of 2014 (pictures)
A roomy range from LG (pictures)
This plain GE range has all of the essentials (pictures)
Sony's 'Interview' heard 'round the world (pictures)