Software Development

U.S. Postal Service goes green with free mail-in recycling service for electronics

In 10 metro areas across the country, the United States Postal Service has launched a new pilot program that allows people to submit old inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, and small electronics for proper disposal and recycling via free pre-paid mailers.

In 10 metro areas across the country, the United States Postal Service has launched a new pilot program that allows people to submit old inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, and small electronics for proper disposal and recycling via free pre-paid mailers that customers can pick up at Post Office branches. If the program is successful, it could be expanded nationwide by this fall.

The Postal Service is acting as the administrator and delivery mechanism for the program. The yeoman's work is being handled by Clover Technologies Group, which pays for all of the shipping costs and handles of the disposal, recycling, and refurbishing of the technologies. The small electronics that can be submitted include PDAs, smartphones, standard cellphones, digital cameras, and MP3 players.

"We know our customers are interested in real solutions for proper disposal of personal electronics," said Anita Bizzotto, chief marketing officer of the USPS. "Everyone from consumers to businesses to non-profit organizations use the mail, and the Postal Service works to manage resources wisely to minimize environmental impact."

Clover has a "zero waste to landfill" policy. It first tries to refurbish and resell items that are still useful. If that's not possible, then the item is broken down and the component parts are used to refurbish other products. Any materials that are left over are then recycled. That approach is why Clover beat out 19 other bidders for the contract, according to Bizzotto.

"As one of the nation's leading corporate citizens, the Postal Service is committed to environmental stewardship," she said. "This program is one more way the Postal Service is empowering consumers to go green."

I'm not sure what other ways "the Postal Service is empowering consumers to go green," but this is a big move by the USPS, and if it goes nationwide, it could become a valuable asset for IT departments, especially in small businesses and remote offices.

Large corporate headquarters often partner with a big local recycler that regularly picks up old equipment, but small offices typically have a do-it-yourself approach that involves someone on the staff doing drop-offs at local recycling centers.

There is one other item that it would be great to see this program include: batteries. In my experience, there are too few waste management programs that process batteries and there are far too many people that still throw them in landfills. Sending batteries through the mail probably wouldn't be a good idea because of potential for leakage, but making post office branches a central location for battery drop-off would be a great solution. The batteries could then be properly shipped in bulk from the branches.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

21 comments
martian
martian

You can just go to their website and request one (or many) prepaid envelopes for the empty cartridges. But it is nice to see that the USPS is also getting in on it.

Lizzie_B
Lizzie_B

Our inkjet cartridges and toner cartridges go to the local branch of one of the nation office supply chains - although they're not happy with them. We have 2 Epson large format printers which use eight 220 ml cartridges each - a type the chains don't sell. But they take them anyway. I think we get $3 each for the ink cartridges and $1 for the Xerox toner cartridges - I'm not sure of that, though. Xerox has a recycling program for the imaging units and fuser for the printer as well - customers can download a prepaid DHL label for the used parts and contact DHL for a pickup. Xerox then refurbishes the parts. Since we go through 8 - 12 imaging units a year, I was delighted to find an outlet for them. We also recycle paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic. Now if we could just find someone who wants the blasted foam-covered, 1/2" thick, laminated cardboard cores the inkjet paper comes on...

travis
travis

They need to do something like this for junk mail too.

babu
babu

I live in a little town of 250 people in Iowa and our Post Office has offered this service for several years.

greenadvocate
greenadvocate

I think recycling electronics with many hazardous materials is outstanding, and the USPS should be applauded for such an effort. However, I wonder how efficient this effort really is -- seems to me like a lot of tiny, individual packages of equipment, flying around the country destined to recyclers, is not exactly carbon-friendly. Maybe for version 2.0 of the program, USPS can consider placing equipment recycling deposits in Post Offices -- and then ship the equipment in bulk (much more efficiently and with far less packaging).

aadato
aadato

I was wondering where these 10 cities across the nation are? I went to the source link and all that was listed in there was Washington D.C, Chicago, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Lizzie_B
Lizzie_B

Witty and cogent as ever, I see.

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

What do you do with old batteries? My trash company says to put the rechargeable ones in the blue recycle bin. No instructions on the plain old alkaline ones.

JCitizen
JCitizen

for security or no body I know will try them. Good grief; I barely trust the mail service too!

Popoyd
Popoyd

Free or Prepaid boxes? Can't be both, can it? There's a business nearby that purchases and recycles cartridges. Buys 'em cheap but still... pays :D

IC-IT
IC-IT

You can use your current supplier and earn points on purchases and toner recycling. These are used towards free printers and more. (I am in no way connected to HP). http://www.hp.com/sbso/special/purchasedge/faqs.html Q: Does PurchasEdge offer other opportunities to earn points? A: Yes. PurchasEdge periodically offers additional opportunities to earn points. For example, you could earn points for recycling your used HP ink and toner cartridges through the HP Planet Partners recycling program. As a member, you'll find out about these promotions and others when you visit www.purchasedge.com, and when you receive quarterly e-statements and other program communications.

herfindahlchristine
herfindahlchristine

We take our empty cartridges to Staples. They give $3 back per empty. Then in a pinch if my office needs something someone could run up and get $9 off the order.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

... but I return empty toner and ink cartridges to the store where I purchase them. They freely accept the old components for recycling. As for electronics, I take them to my local recycler. I don't ask for any money for the recycling, I just want the old equipment disposed of properly.

kevinkfred
kevinkfred

...there is a local company that will take our junked out PC's (after I have remove the hard drives and crushed them in a press - too much sensitive data handled by our company) and monitors - all we have to do is deliver to them. I also just contacted CoreRecycling - the USPS partner mentioned in the article. We have about 120 used laser cartridges that I have been collecting until I find someone who will take them (responsibly). I'll post back when I hear back from Core.

EddieS
EddieS

In the USPS press release, it explains it's free to you and paid for by Clover Tecnologies.

JCitizen
JCitizen

they already recycled all of their consumables through HP, now they can do this with system units and hardware that is not donatable.

JCitizen
JCitizen

HP gave us free shipping lables for our consumables, but your method sounds more viable and we are a Staples customer as well. Looks like with energy getting expensive, everyone is waking up to the recycling advantage!