Post office launches free e-waste recycling by mail

Right now, next to my dresser is a slowly growing pile of e-detritus. There’s an old Dell notebook battery, a docking station to a dead Palm Treo, and some plugs to things I’ve long since lost. I’d like to do the right thing and send this e-waste to a proper recycler. But I’ve missed two special recycling events in NYC, and the stuff hasn’t moved an inch. Soon, I’ll have an alternative. The US Post Office is making it simpler to recycle e-waste. With its new “Mail Back” program customers can use free envelopes found in 1,500 Post Offices to mail back inkjet cartridges, PDAs, Blackberries, digital cameras, iPods and MP3 players – without having to pay mailing fees. Postage is paid for by Clover Technologies Group, which recycles, remanufactures and remarkets inkjet cartridges, laser cartridges and small electronics. If the refuse can’t be refurbished and resold, its component parts are reused to refurbish other items, or the parts are broken down further and the materials are recycled. Clover Technologies Group has a “zero waste to landfill” policy: it does everything it can to avoid contributing any materials to the nation’s landfills. To start with, the postage-paid Mail Back envelopes can be found on displays in Post Office lobbies. In 10 areas across the country, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego. If the pilot goes well, the post office plans to extend the program nation wide.

UPDATE (5/2/08) — Sam’s Club has launched a similar service, allowing its members to turn in unwanted small and midsized electronics, but with a twist. Sam’s is offering store credit in return for some recycled goods. Here’s the scoop:

STERLING, Va. - N.E.W. Customer Service Companies, Inc. (NEW) is pleased to announce Sam’s Club has launched ecoNEW®, its new online electronics recycling service that helps members nationwide get rid of their older, unwanted, small to medium size electronics through a free, easy-to-use, environmental solution for e-waste recycling. Sam’s Club Members may trade in their older electronics for a gift card which is determined by a recycle trade-in value generated through the website ( Sam’s Club’s ecoNEW program accepts LCD monitors, digital cameras, PC desktops and laptops, gaming systems, MP3 players, camcorders, and printers. Even if the product does not qualify for a trade-in value, the program still accepts the product for recycling and provides a pre-paid shipping label.

The ecoNEW program operated by NEW has a “no export and no landfill” guarantee. Electronic equipment received will either be reconditioned or recycled. Some items may be sold into the secondary or used marketplace in whole machine form or disassembled and sold off as usable service parts. Recycled equipment and parts will then be broken down into raw material and used to produce new materials. The parts may become part of NEW’s service repair network that supports more than 150 million customers across the U.S. NEW is the nation’s leading provider of extended service plans and buyer protection programs for consumer products.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.