By Michael Kanellos
Taking out the trash is becoming a heated contest.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has unfurled a program under which consumers receive money for turning in old PCs, servers, phones, printers and other consumer electronics. The cash rebate varies by the product. If the product has no resale value, consumers can turn it in and have it recycled for free. HP accepts all brands.
To date, companies such as Panasonic (PC) have offered free recycling, but often limited the program to their own brands.
Blogger Candace Lombardi received an estimate for a $60 bounty for an old Dell laptop.
The computing giant, however, isn't completely doing this out of the goodness of its heart. California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, the E.U. and several other governments have passed electronic recycling programs with more on the way. Under these programs, the governments give cash bounties to recyclers for every PC or television they take in.
The recycler is also typically free to keep any money obtained from selling old parts or raw materials. In the ideal situation, recyclers can collect a bounty for a PC, refurbish it, and sell it again without crushing any parts. Refurbishing is more environmentally friendly (because no energy is expended and no materials get lost) and the recycler makes more money from selling a refurbished product than metals or other parts extracted from old machines.
The rebates are based around the resale value, according to an HP representative. Hence, HP is splitting the scrap and resale value with consumers and later will likely add the rebates while getting good marks for being green while consumers get cash and a less cluttered garage.
An HP representative said that the company launched it mostly as a service for consumers and not to turn a profit. However, it is not disclosing financial details.
Even if HP is not looking at the profit angle, others are and recycling is increasingly a big business which will get a bit more difficult now that a large coropration is offering rebates. Electronic Recyclers, a rapidly growing recycler in California, says that the worldwide market for electronic recycling will come to $11 billion this year and is growing at around 8.8 percent annually, the fastest segment in solid waste. In the U.S., electronic recycling services will be a $17 billion business. To date, the business has mostly been tackled by smaller, less familiar outfits like Electronic Recyclers.
Ireland's the Multis Group, which specializes in refurbishing servers, says that old servers can sell for more than what they cost new. These old machines are bought by people who need a standardized hardware set. The company, which actually refurbishes servers for HP, opened a 70,000 square foot center in Union City, Calif.
And e-waste isn't going away anytime soon. Recyclers estimate that around 60 million PCs get the heav-ho in the U.S. every year. The mandated conversion to digital TV in the U.S. will sent 80 to 90 million old CRT TVs to recyclers, according to estimates.