Electronics Recycling Gets Vendor Push

Mandate would create a level playing field for manufacturers, reduce production costs.

Major vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sony, are working to push through a legislative mandate in the U.S. to make it easier for users to recycle their consumer electronics.

The mandate calls on companies to cut consumer electronics recycling costs and to make reuse and recycling the highest priority when manufacturing products, said company executives during a panel at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month.

The cost to consumers of recycling products is high, and some manufacturers have taken advantage of weak recycling laws to create products that cannot be effectively recycled or reused. Some companies have standards in place to make easy-to-recycle products, but others hope to drive down their own costs by adopting lower production standards, the executives said.

A legislative mandate would create a level playing field for manufacturers, said Tod Arbogast, director of sustainable business at Dell. A common approach to designing for recycling will promote the production of such products and drive down manufacturing costs through effective product design and distribution. Production costs can also be cut through recycling and reusing materials. “There are significant economic benefits in doing so as well as significant environmental benefits,” said Arbogast.

So what are the companies doing? Dell follows a Texas state law that requires PC manufacturers to dispose of products as easily as they are placed in the market. HP is adopting standards to recycle printers whose plastic doesn’t convert to raw material. Sony is launching a program so customers can recycle consumer electronics for free by taking them to locations near its 56 Sony Style stores.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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