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EBay Attacks 'E-Waste' with Electronics Recycling Program

EBay Attacks 'E-Waste' with Electronics Recycling Program

"The Rethink Initiative represents an opportunity to get information about e-waste out to the more than 120 million people in eBay's user community," Ted Smith, chair of the Computer TakeBack Campaign, said. "Public education and giving the good guy recyclers a boost is very important."

By Jennifer LeClaire
01/07/05 11:03 AM PT

EBay has launched a major initiative that brings together leading technology companies, government agencies, environmental groups and millions of eBay users to confront the problem of "e-waste" -- unused or obsolete computers that might pose environmental hazards when disposed of in landfills.

The centerpiece of the Rethink Initiative is a Web site (www.ebay.com/rethink) that helps consumers and businesses learn about the different product disposition alternatives, such as recycling and refurbishing, and makes it easy to put this knowledge into action.

Available Options

Visitors also will have access to information on the options available to reuse or responsibly recycle computers, along with access to a full range of responsible product disposition options -- including services provided by Rethink Initiative participants.

In addition, a variety of eBay-related solutions -- including assisted selling on eBay with convenient local drop-off options, trade-in programs, donating to charity or recycling in their local area -- will be offered.

"The Rethink Initiative represents an opportunity to get information about e-waste out to the more than 120 million people in eBay's user community," Ted Smith, chair of the Computer TakeBack Campaign, told the E-Commerce Times. "Public education and giving the good guy recyclers a boost is very important."

Gartner estimates that about 133,000 PCs per day in the U.S. alone currently are being retired and replaced by their original owners. These systems might contain hazardous materials, such as plastic, lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury that need to be handled in an environmentally responsible manner. Yet Americans' understanding of recycling and reuse options remains limited -- only about 10 percent of unwanted PCs in the U.S. are recycled, according to the Grass Roots Recycling Network.

'Force for Good'

"EBay's millions of users can be a powerful force for good," Meg Whitman, eBay president and CEO, said. "The Rethink Initiative will educate consumers on how to properly dispose of or recycle the millions of tons of e-waste they confront each year. We're extremely excited about the positive role eBay's user community will play in confronting this environmental dilemma."

With Intel as its primary ally, eBay's Rethink Initiative coordinates efforts by industry leaders Apple, Gateway, HP, IBM and Ingram Micro with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the non-profit Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, among other participants.

Together, this coalition promotes reuse and recycling as key steps in the purchase process. Intel and eBay will jointly promote the Rethink Initiative and work together in reaching out to additional industry, government and environmental groups to help make the Rethink Initiative even more comprehensive.

E-Waste Reform Urged

"As the technology industry continues to develop new and exciting products, it's important that all parties -- industry, government, business and consumers -- work together to responsibly dispose of old equipment," Intel CEO Craig Barrett said. "Intel has a 10-year history of work on this issue, and we're pleased to be a part of eBay's Rethink Initiative. It creates a unique central resource for consumers and businesses who want to make informed decisions and do the right thing with their used technology products."

Even with this landmark cooperative between eBay, computer manufacturers and government agencies, Smith said e-waste reform is ultimately needed because one initiative is not enough to address the 400 million electronic devices that his agency reports are becoming obsolete each year worldwide.

"Campaigns like this are no substitute for developing effective public policy," Smith said. "We need to make some dramatic changes in the rules for dealing with e-waste. The government has not stepped up to the plate to help develop new rules. That's yet to come, but the Rethink Initiative is a good step in the interim."


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