Mail-In Programs Offer Contactless Electronics Recycling to US Businesses, Residents

As societies across the globe continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, many US counties and municipalities, as well as recycling businesses and retail collection points, have either suspended electronics recycling programs or greatly modified procedures to protect the health of their staff and the public.  For example, Best Buy has suspended its popular recycling service, the spring electronics collection in Champaign County (IL) had to be canceled, and although Will County (IL) electronics collections continue to operate, they do so with certain guidelines to minimize interpersonal contact.

In response to our changing realities, some companies are offering new mail-in programs to help residents and businesses responsibly manage their electronics at end-of-life while exercising caution and maintaining social distancing.

TERRA (The Electronics Reuse and Recycling Alliance) offers mail-in residential electronics recycling through its “Done with IT” program. Through this program, consumers can purchase pre-paid mailing labels for a given weight of acceptable items. Unwanted electronics can then be packed in reused boxes (the program does not provide packaging) and shipped via UPS. This service is available throughout much of North America–see their service map for details.  The program works with certified electronics recyclers to ensure data security for participants. The Done with IT program existed pre-pandemic but has continued to expand to new locations during the pandemic.

ERI has recently launched a mail-in recycling box program applicable to both residential and business electronic scrap. Like the Done with IT program, shipments are made via UPS, but unlike the Done with IT program, boxes are shipped flat to the consumer for use, and service is available for all 50 states.  From the press release related to the program:

ERI, the nation’s leading fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company currently provides the only NAID, R2, and e-Stewards certified secure-at-home (or office) box program in the United States. The program provides contactless, transparent delivery and pickup. All collected electronics are responsibly recycled and all data is securely destroyed. ERI’s home and business electronics recycling box program is available to individuals and businesses in all 50 states, at every zip code in the country…The boxes are shipped flat directly to the customer with an included return label. Customers can then assemble, fill, and return the boxes whenever convenient, with a simple call to ERI’s logistics partner, UPS.

Of course, other mail-in options for certain types of electronic materials existed before the pandemic and continue. Call2Recycle and Battery Solutions, for example, both offer battery recycling programs. TerraCycle has locations available for its free electronics recycling program.

Consumers should check with their local recycling coordinators to determine whether electronics recycling solutions exist in their area. Mail-in programs such as these may be particularly helpful in areas where local options are limited or temporarily suspended.

Upcoming EPA Webinar on Safe Packaging and Transport of Lithium Batteries

On Thursday, January 23, 2020, the US EPA Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy will present Safe Packaging and Transportation of Lithium Batteries for Recycling: What You Need to Know. The speaker will be Jordan Rivera of the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

From the SMM web pages:

Lithium batteries are key to our modern connected world, from our cellphones and computers to our cars (and not just electric cars) and have an increasing role in storing electricity for the electric grid. But, used lithium batteries aren’t exactly like the used alkaline or lead acid batteries that many are used to working with. Because of the battery’s level of charge and the materials that are inside of it, special preparation is needed when shipping these batteries to a refurbisher or recycler. On this webinar participants will learn how to prevent, reduce or eliminate risks of fire or explosions from the improper packaging, marking, labeling, or recycling of lithium batteries.

This SMM webinar will be hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and led by a subject matter expert from the Hazardous Materials Safety Assistance Team under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The webinar will focus on the safe transportation of lithium batteries for recycling and the applicable regulations that must be followed by battery shippers. It is designed for individuals in the battery recycling industry who need a working knowledge of the regulations, or who provide training to their employees on the applicable regulations. They will include an overview on the latest regulatory requirements on proper lithium battery packaging, marking, and labeling and as well as a basic understanding of how to apply the Hazardous Materials Regulations.”

Register for this webinar at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/13389156744558092. See https://www.epa.gov/smm/sustainable-materials-management-smm-web-academy-webinar-safe-packaging-and-transportation for additional information. Note the SMM Web Academy typically posts slides and a webinar recording after the presentation has occurred.