Rethinking Recycling

Image by John(ny) D via Flickr

No, not in general. We still encourage everyone to recycle, reuse, reduce and, especially at this time of year, regift.

What we do have to rethink is our offer to recycle our customer’s printers, faxes, computers and monitors for them. We wanted to provide this service as a free way to ensure your electronics were recycled properly.  We would take customer’s unwanted, unneeded and broken electronics then, when we got to around 20 devices, we would call a local agency to pick them up. We worked with agencies that used the printers to train people in repair and then supplied the working machines to low-income and military families.

Unfortunately the number of agencies involved in this effort is shrinking, and those that remain are getting more selective about what they’ll accept. For instance, the Salvation Army will only take computers less than 4 years old, the very type of machine unlikely to be offered for recycling.

We thought we’d found the perfect partner in our efforts to keep printers and computers out of the landfill in a local company called Recycle San Diego. I just posted about a weekend drive they were having for electronics. That’s where I took all our accumulated printers Saturday.

Evidently this reoccurring drive is free to households, people who have a printer or a computer they want to recycle.  When you pull in like I did with 20+ printers in the back of your truck you’re considered a business (fair enough, we are, after all) and businesses pay 20¢ a pound to recycle printers. So recycling our customer’s printers Saturday cost us $20.

Had our customers brought their own printers to Recycle San Diego on Saturday instead of bringing them to our store, they would have been able to freely recycle them.

So as much as I regret doing anything that might in any way discourage recycling, from this point on we are going to start encouraging our customers to take their electronics directly to Recycle San Diego on the weekends they hold their drives and not to bring them to us. This will ensure the electronics get recycled without costing either of us anything.

I’ll make a point to post upcoming recycling drives in advance and will have that information available in the store. We want to encourage everyone to properly dispose of their unwanted electronics, we just can’t afford to subsidize that effort every month.

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