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Microsoft joins Goodwill recycling program

Microsoft joins Dell in making Goodwill a nationwide repository for free electronics recycling through its Reconnect program.

Reconnect Partnership

Microsoft announced Wednesday its joining Dell and Goodwill Industries International in their ongoing recycling program.

Goodwill, in addition to being a used clothing and furniture repository and store, is also a place where people can drop off their old electronics.

Through a program started in partnership with Dell in 2004 called Reconnect, participating Goodwill centers allow people to drop off their used computers and related peripherals to be recycled for free.

You can now add Microsoft products like Zunes and Xboxes to the list of electronic items Goodwill accepts.

The program is not completely convenient as there are many states in the U.S. that don't have participating Reconnect locations. (The closest one to me is more than 30 miles away.) But it does offer 1,900 Reconnect Goodwill drop-offs in the U.S. and in early April expanded to include drop-offs in Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

The electronics are evaluated by Goodwill employees. Viable electronics are resold, those in need of repair or beyond repair are sent out to be refurbished or broken down and recycled.

While the intentions are good and the program claims to have "diverted more than 96 million pounds of e-waste from landfills" since inception, it's dubious how successful it can be in motivating people to drop off their stuff.

A recent electronics recycling poll conducted by Pike Research found that the average consumer has 2.8 pieces of electronics junk stashed somewhere in their home, and that 35 percent of consumers believe there should be curbside pick-up service along with their regular trash.

Still, if you have a Reconnect Goodwill nearby, it may be one of the best e-waste recycling options available if your old e-waste product doesn't qualify for a rebate program like the online HP Consumer Buyback program. Staples offers free recycling of keyboards, mice, speakers, and Dell products, and $3 coupons in exchange for used ink cartridges. But it charges a $10 fee for "all other brands of computer monitors, desktop and laptop computers, printers, scanners, all-in-ones and fax machines." Office Depot offers all-you-can-fill recycling boxes that come in $5, $10, and $15 options. Dell also offers a free pick-up option through its Dell PRP Recycling Program in conjunction with FedEx.

As for Apple users looking to recycle, your options are free take-back when you buy your next Apple product, free recycling and drop-off options in select states, or a $30 fee for the mail-in program.

As always, all consumers should remember to wipe hard drives clean before unleashing their old tech to the world.

Updated 10:30 a.m. PDT: New info included concerning Dell's free pick-up option.