Joining a growing group of companies in the electronics
industry, Hewlett-Packard announced on Monday a fee-based service
that allows consumers and businesses to recycle unwanted computers and
The service, part of HP's Planet Partners program, will accept the
equipment regardless of the manufacturer for a fee ranging from $13 to $34.
People will be able to purchase the service online at the Environment section of HP's Web
site, the company said.
The announcement puts HP in sync with a movement among computer makers
to take back obsolete equipment from consumers in the United States, riding
a wave of current and pending legislation in Europe and
elsewhere mandating programs along these lines. The efforts mark
governments and industry coming to grips with the rapid obsolescence of
electronics equipment, which has become the fastest-growing component of
HP will launch the service in Europe on June 1, tailored to individual
countries. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy already
require manufacturer-financed take-back programs, the company said.
A key issue for manufacturers has been the costs involved in take-back
programs, something that the fee is intended to address. No one is yet sure
how consumers will respond to a request that they pay to throw away their
old computers, printers and the like.
"There's a pretty high overhead cost," said Renee St. Denis, environmental
business unit manager at HP. "There's also the issue of, do all customers
want this service?"
IBM launched a similar recycling initiative in November, in which consumers
can get rid of any manufacturer's computer equipment for $29.99. Sony
Electronics has a no-cost drop-off program that is limited to its own
products and to the state of Minnesota. Retailer Best Buy this summer plans to begin a recycling program
that will involve a fee.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP drew praise from waste watchers in the state.
The technology giant has its recycling facility in Roseville, Calif., and
plans to open a similar recycling site in Nashville, Tenn., in July.
"It's a very good start toward solving the electronics management issue
we're facing," said Mark Kennedy, a technical adviser for the California
Integrated Waste Management Board. "I like the sliding scale of fees. I
like also that they're handling all the materials right here in California
or the U.S., rather than shipping them overseas."
Still, he said, the fee could put a crimp in consumers' acceptance of the
Recycling is not new at HP. Like IBM, Dell Computer and others, it has long
had a program for handling its own end-of-life equipment.
"The difference is in the investment HP has made in understanding" the full
scale of handling obsolete electronic products, St. Denis said. "We know
for sure what happens to ours. Nothing ends up in landfills or exported."
HP has also been taking back spent cartridges for its laser and ink-jet
printers for about a decade.
The program that goes into effect Monday will accept a wide range of goods,
including PCs of various shapes and sizes, printers, monitors, scanners,
PDAs (personal digital assistants) and routers. Pricing will depend on the quantity and type of product
being returned. At the low end of the scale would be small personal
printers, and at the high end, monitors and large laser printers.
The equipment will first be evaluated to see if it can be reused, and
functional devices will be donated to charitable organizations or sent
through other reuse channels. The remaining equipment will be recycled
through a procedure, in cooperation with Micro Metallics, a subsidiary of
mining company Noranda, to recover as much usable and potentially toxic
materials as possible.
HP's Roseville facility processes up to 4 million pounds per month of used
equipment from the computer maker and its corporate customers.