What's more, requirements for consumers and businesses to recycle PCs and other gadgets are fast becoming part of the law. In New York State, one of many states implementing new regulations, it became illegal as of December 5, 2011 for any state resident to "knowingly dispose of rechargeable batteries as solid waste."
State law also already requires all business owners to arrange for computer disposal at a certified recycling facility. As of January 1, 2015, all consumers will be prohibited from dumping electronic equipment in landfills or waste-to-energy facilities. Products covered by this law range from computers, TVs and CRTs to smaller electronics like DVD players and peripherals like monitors, keyboards, mice, and some printers.
Companies cropping up to cope with these needs handle recycling in a couple of ways, noted Nikhil Raman, co-founder and COO of recycling specialist uSell. Some products are simply refurbished for resale to other users. Some get recycled for parts and sold for their scrap value. Commonly but not always, recycling companies emphasize promises not to get rid of used products or components in landfills.
Despite the growing numbers of recycling options, though, 44 percent of the Americans surveyed by Call2Recycle cited "not knowing how or where to recycle old technology" as a barrier to recycling.
Here's a look at six companies focusing on various aspects of electronics product recycling: Nextworth, Gazelle, Cash for Laptops, uSell, Call2Recycle, and Desktop Disposal LLC.
Like a bevy of other Web sites in this emerging space, NextWorth offers cash quotes for electronics products based on descriptions you fill in on a form.
After you've accepted a price quote, you mail in the item and receive payment through a choice of Paypal, check, or gift card.
NextWorth, though, handles an especially large variety of electronic products, including smartphones, iPads, GPS devices, eReaders, and PCs from Apple, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, IBM, HP, Sony and Toshiba.
NextWorth asks you for more info about PCs than smartphones. Here are a few sample questions: Powers on successfully? Flawless display? Working optical drive?
In answering questions like these on recycling Web sites, it's best to be candid about an item's actual condition, so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises when payment time arrives.
Originally, Gazelle's Web site purchased both Windows and Mac PCs from sellers. Since then, though, the site has become more "granular," now honing in on just MacOS notebook and desktop PCs, iPads, iPhones, other cell phones, and Apple TVs.
Gazelle's user base of "high tech gadget enthusiasts" is mainly interested in "getting cash to upgrade to the latest and greatest" Macs, iPads, and phones, said Anthony Scarsella, Gazelle's chief gadget officer, in another interview. Those who purchase the refurbished high-end gadgets can still get a "fantastic deal," with many iPads, in particular, arriving at Gazelle in pristine condition.
Scarsella doesn't view big brand retailers as direct competitors to Gazelle because recycling is Gazelle's core business. "Unlike Amazon, we aren't selling toothpaste, too," he observed.
In contrast to places like Amazon and RadioShack, which pay for gear in the form of store credit, Gazelle shells out actual cash through Paypal or check. In another point of distinction, any price quote accepted by a seller is "locked in" for 30 days, so that the seller won't get any less than the quote.
Meanwhile, not all of the Web sites in this category are faring as well against the big new rivals. Right now, for example, RMS Communications has stopped accepting any new orders on its Web site, Cell for Cash. Cell for Cash had been stipulating "within 45 days of verification" as payment terms for traded goods, a much longer time than other recycling sites. Some users had complained about Cell for Cash payments not even happening by then.
Cash for Laptops is a member of a smaller subset of recycling Web sites placing a large emphasis on Windows notebook PCs. Although Cash for Laptops deals in some other gadgets too (such as iPhones and iPads), its price quote engine for laptops is exceptionally expansive.
In a quick look, we found dozens of models listed for Dell alone, for instance. The site buys gear in either broken or non-broken condition from consumers and businesses alike. The company fully erases and reformats hard disks, as well.
On its Web site, Cash for Laptops pledges that it "normally send[s] you your payment as soon as we confirm condition of your gadget and payout amount."
The site also offers a series of video testimonials from actual customers. It also lists some recent payments to customers, such as $307 for a Toshiba Satellite C675 and $455 for an iPhone 4S. Information like this can be helpful in evaluating whether or not a site is legit. If in doubt, though, it's a good idea to run a search on Google for off-site user reviews.
Other iterations of the same Web site - such as Cash for iPads - focus on iPads, iPhones, BlackBerry phones, and other smartphones, but some of the same content is shared across the sites.
Like Nextworth and Gazelle, for instance, uSell was once a direct buyer. Last summer, though, uSell changed its business model. Now, uSell is to other recycling sites what Kayak is to other travel reservation sites, according to uSell's Raman.
"We connect sellers to trusted buyers and let the sellers decide which sellers to work with," he explained.
Buyers' turanround times for payments range from "a couple of days to a couple of weeks," and price quotes vary, too. To help reach decisions, sellers can also consult detail pages on the site which include customer ratings. "Maybe you're willing to wait a while (for payment) if a buyer has a high review," he suggested.
Sellers tend to sell their items for higher prices on uSell than they would on eBay, according to Raman.
For the moment, at least, uSell is handling only items such as smartphones, tablets, eReaders, digital cameras, MP3 players, and game consoles, There's some possibility, though,?that the company might add laptops to the mix later on, he said.
In contrast to the other Web sites mentioned so far, Call2Recycle is a nonprofit organization. Focused right now on cell phones and rechargeable batteries only, the site maintains an extensive national database of physical dropoff sites for product recycling.
Although the recycling services are free, consumers and businesses turning in products at these dropoff locations don't receive any money in exchange for their goods.
The batteries collected are either recovered or reused to make new batteries, cement products, or stainless steel alloys.
"Third-party auditing of our processes and our vendors ensures we adhere to the highest industry standards. For example, we have received Responsible Recycling (R2) certification and are recognized as e-Stewards by the Basel Action Network," maintained Lisa Ballard, a spokesperson.
What can you do if you or your business needs to dispose of a desktop PC (or more)? Desktop Disposal LLC - a company with offices in 18 major US cities - is one of a number of companies now accepting desktop PCs.
Desktop Disposal also recycles products like laptops, CRT and LCD monitors, servers, copiers, printers, and phones.
Reviews on Google indicate that users are quite happy with the results. "I will definitely be calling them again for my next round of computer recycling. They came to our New York office [and] removed and loaded all of the old electronics. Very professional staff," wrote a user named Brad.
Desktop Disposal's services aren't limited to keeping PCs and components from going into landfills. The company purchases technology products, too.
OK. We don't want to put you on a "green guilt" trip, or anything. Yet, with so many different options now available, there doesn't seem to be much of a reason NOT to recycle, especially if your old gear can help pay the freight on upgrading to brand new stuff that'll be the envy of your neighborhood (or your office park).
With new regulations coming down the pike, now is a good time to start learning more about how and where to recycle your PCs and other gadgets.
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