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Earth Friendly: Texas law requires computer manufacturers to offer free recycling

July 27, 2010 at 2:27 a.m.
Updated July 28, 2010 at 2:28 a.m.

Meredith Byrd

By Meridith Byrd

The idea of recycling electronic equipment, particularly computers, is not new. By now many consumers are aware that some of the materials contained inside computer systems, including lead, mercury and cadmium, can be toxic to the environment.

Computer equipment, like TVs and other electronics, should not be sent to landfills for this reason, as these heavy metals can leach out of landfills and contaminate soil or water.

In 2008, the Texas legislature adopted a law requiring that computer manufacturers enact recycling programs that are "reasonably convenient and available to consumers in this state" and, most importantly, that consumers be able to "recycle computer equipment without paying a separate fee at the time of recycling."

So, according to Texas law, manufacturers must provide easy and free computer recycling for the public. This law only applies to "computer equipment purchased by individuals primarily for personal or home-business use." Businesses are encouraged to check with the computer manufacturers for commercial recycling programs.

I became aware of the law only recently when a friend sent me a link to www.takecareoftexas.org, a website hosted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, that is packed with ideas for how Texans can work toward a cleaner environment. On the main page of the site is a link for computer recycling, which brings up a list of more than 100 computer brands with links to their respective recycling programs.

I followed the links of a few major computer brands to learn how consumers can recycle their products. Many companies' programs are similar in that the company will cover shipping costs, but consumers must obtain their own box and other packing materials.

Apple will recycle your desktop or laptop computers, monitors, keyboards and mice via FedEx. After the user fills out the required information, Apple will send an e-mail with your shipping authorization number, barcode and complete shipping instructions. Once the equipment has been boxed, it must be left at a FedEx storefront location and not a FedEx drop box.

Dell also utilizes FedEx for its recycling program, which includes notebooks, desktops, monitors, printers, keyboards and mice. Consumers simply locate the service tag on the equipment and fill out a form to receive a FedEx shipping label to be printed and attached to the box. Dell does not require that boxes be taken to a FedEx location; consumers may call FedEx to have the package picked up from their home.

Hewlett-Packard recycles a whole host of products, including those made by its subsidiaries, such as Compaq. In addition to its computers and accessories the company accepts scanners, digital cameras, PDAs, Smartphones and others. Similar to the processes mentioned above, the user will fill out a form and receive an e-mail with complete shipping instructions and a prepaid UPS shipping label. The package must be taken to a UPS location.

The list on the Take Care of Texas website is extensive, so chances are good that your computer brand is listed. Ship your unwanted equipment back to its manufacturer for recycling and keep toxic materials out of the landfill.

Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at meridith.byrd@gmail.com.

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