Where electronics go to die, responsibly

WORCESTER, Mass.--The electronic waste piling up in our closets and basements holds valuable material that could be used to make something new, as is the case with old newspapers and plastic bottles. The challenge is ensuring that e-waste gets recycled without threatening public health.

Earlier this week, I took a tour of a small electronics recycler here that caters to people who want to be sure that their e-waste is handled responsibly, rather than be shipped to a destination with unknown or unverified practices. The center, operated by Metech Recycling, provided a peek into how everyday products find a … Read more

ecoATM kiosk scans used gadget, pays owner

Following a financing deal for ecoATM, you may be able to clear out the digital skeletons in your closet on a trip to the mall.

San Diego-based ecoATM, which makes a kiosk for taking back used electronics, today said it raised $14.4 million in equity and debt to launch its product in more places. One of the investors is Coinstar, which makes automated retail products, including coin collection machines for supermarkets and other stores.

ecoATM was started about two years ago by former wireless industry executives to build an automatic system for trading in electronic gadgets no longer in use, … Read more

E-waste to hit developing world hard


Waste from discarded electronics will rise dramatically in the developing world within a decade, with computer waste in India alone to grow by 500 percent from 2007 levels by 2020, a U.N. study released Monday said.

E-waste--a term describing electronics including phones, printers, televisions, refrigerators and other appliances--grows globally by 40 million metric tones a year. Toxins are emitted when it is improperly burned by scavengers looking for valuable components, such as copper and gold.

A report released in Bali on Monday (PDF) by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicted that by 2020, e-waste from computers would grow … Read more

E-waste showdown unearths deeper questions

Oral hearings are scheduled to start next month in a court case that could test the limits of manufacturer participation in electronics recycling.

The case pits New York City against tech industry groups the Computer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which are seeking an injunction to stop the city's proposed electronics recycling program.

In a background conference call on Thursday, supporters of the city's recycling mandate said the notion of "extended producer responsibility," or taking on some of the cost of recycling used electronics, is being put on trial. There is … Read more

Recycling e-waste: Who should pay?

A recent study by Pike Research has found that over 76 percent of consumers see recycling as the key to reducing the world's e-waste.

However, 37 percent of consumers also think that recycling their e-waste should be a free service, according to "Electronics Recycling and E-Waste Issues," a study released Thursday.

That's not to say consumers necessarily believe electronics manufacturers should be the ones picking up the tab. Only 10 percent of those surveyed saw recycling as a "producer responsibility," and only 14 percent thought the cost of free e-waste recycling should be built-in … Read more

EcoATM pays you for used gadgets

You know that old Motorola Razr that's been sitting in your nightstand for the last year? If you live near Omaha, Neb., you can march up to the EcoATM at the Nebraska Furniture Mart, toss it in, and automatically get an in-store trade-up coupon or gift card.

The self-serve e-cycling station electronically inspects phones, assigns them real-time secondary market value, and provides in-store payment--if the handset still has any monetary worth. If not, consumers can choose to assign the device to the recycle bin, and then it's on its way to getting recycled or refurbished.

The kiosk at the Omaha store is the first such station to be installed by San Diego-based start-up EcoATM, and it's serving as a test case in advance of a scheduled larger rollout.

The company, formerly called ReMobile, declared the Nebraska machine an immediate success when it went into operation September 21--both in the number of recycled devices collected and the trade-up purchases.

On its first day, 23 phones went into the recycle bin. In addition, "the EcoATM at NFM bought back over $100 in phones on day two, including a perfect BlackBerry Curve," Twittered EcoATM's Eric Rosser, who said in an interview he thinks retailers will appreciate the automation of the EcoATM and consumers will value the speed and convenience.

The company plans to install kiosks at wireless stores and big-box retailers in San Diego, Texas, Washington state, and Vermont this quarter, Rosser said, with a "massive rollout" set for the second quarter of next year. Eventually the EcoATMs should be able to recognize other gadgets, such as MP3 players, digital cameras, notebooks, printers, and storage devices.

The machines rely on a camera-based system to detect signs of wear such as cracked screens, missing keys, and scuff marks, and to determine a device's approximate value. If it's not worth anything, consumers could still get a free gift for their efforts--in Omaha's case, a waterproof phone case. And in a green nod, EcoATM will plant a tree for them. … Read more

Greenpeace wars with HP

Editors' note: This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. PDT with HP's statement.

It's war on hazardous chemicals that Greenpeace single-handedly provoked Tuesday.

After rating Hewlett-Packard low on its Green Meter did little to convince the company to change its ways, the organization decided to resort to trespassing.

It sent activists to HP's global headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., where they climbed on top of the building and painted a gigantic message announcing "Hazardous Products," using nontoxic children's finger paint. The message covered more than 11,500 square feet, which is about … Read more

Greenpeace guide frowns on HP, still loves Nokia

Greenpeace released its latest Guide to Greener Electronics on Wednesday, revealing that promises aren't always kept.

The Greenpeace guide, which started in 2006, ranks the top 17 PC, cell phone, TV, and gaming console manufacturers based on their policies regarding e-waste, climate change, and use of toxic chemicals.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Lenovo all dropped in the rankings for failing to live up to public promises to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their computers by the end of 2009, according to Greenpeace.

While 2009 isn't over yet, Greenpeace noted that the companies have reset … Read more

CNET News Daily Podcast: Prevent your TV from becoming e-waste

As the U.S. prepares to shift to digital television on June 12, environmental organizations are warning of a surge in e-waste. CNET News intern Dara Kerr talks to CNET News' Erik Palm about the dangers of e-waste and how to make sure your TV is disposed of properly. He also talks about what he saw when he followed an analog TV in the last stages of its life.

Plus, it's official: the Palm Pre's a hit. Listen now: Download today's podcast

Today's stories:

Sprint breaks its sales record with Palm Pre

Microsoft gets Bing bump, ComScore saysRead more

DTV transition: Avoiding an e-waste 'tsunami'

On June 12, the U.S. makes its long-anticipated shift to digital television. As that changeover prompts consumers to ditch their old analog TV sets in favor of more modern devices, environmental organizations such as Greenpeace are warning of a surge in e-waste.

"We are seeing now a huge anticipated spike in the amount of electronic waste, really a tsunami of electronic waste coming through because of this digital transition," said Casey Harrell, a Greenpeace International campaigner.

And it's not just that the old television sets are piling up--as with scrapped PCs and printers, there's also … Read more