Consumers in the United States will be able to get Sony-brand electronics products recycled for no cost starting in September, under a new program announced by the consumer electronics company on Friday.
The Sony Take Back Recycling Program will be offered through 75 drop-off locations in the United States operated by WM Recycle America, and will begin on Sept. 15.
Sony intends to expand it to include about 150 drop-off points—at least one in each state—within the year. Consumers will also have the option to ship their products to a recycling center, and Sony will work toward a goal of having centers within 20 miles of 95 percent of the U.S. population.
The issue of electronic waste is growing in importance as the number of gadgets increases and their price comes down. Today, faulty electronics products are more often junked than repaired, and it's increasingly common for users to replace products not because they are old but because a more attractive product comes along.
In 2005, between 1.9 million and 2.2 million tons of electronics products were discarded in the United States, of which the vast majority was dumped in landfill sites. As little as 345,000 tons was recycled, according to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Disposal by landfill often leads to numerous toxic chemicals leaching into the surrounding ground, leaving it poisonous and dangerous to the nearby environment.
The issue is most vividly highlighted in Guiyu, China, where vast amounts of electronics waste are sent for recycling from around the world. There, according to environmental groups, so many toxic substances have escaped into the ground that the area is heavily polluted and dangerous to the health of local citizens.
Greenpeace has been urging electronics companies to cut down the number of toxic substances used in electronics products. It publishes a regular report of how it sees the major consumer electronics companies.
Sony ranked in last place in the most recent report, published in March this year, in part for its take-back standards. Greenpeace said the company was part of a coalition that has been opposing producer responsibility in recycling in the United States. The organization also noted that Sony scores well for having some models that are free of the worst chemicals on the market.