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Best Buy experiments with answer to growing electronic waste dilemma

With many states focusing on producer responsibility as the back-bone of their electronics recycling programs, more retailers and manufacturers might do well to consider innovations in leasing, financing and warranty programs.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Sometime in the next three hours (gotta love those ridiculous delivery windows that retailers give you) my husband and I will receive a delivery of new appliances for the kitchen he pulled apart right after the holiday. Which means we'll suddenly have two of everything: stove, refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher.

The good news is that we have managed to find new homes for all of the outgoing models, which makes me feel great as someone who believes that refurbishment and reuse are just as important as recycling when it comes to product lifecycles. But I wonder how many other people in my position are this lucky?

That's why I'm intrigued by a new program being considered by Best Buy, which is probably the biggest electronics retailer in the United States. The program would be sort of like a leasing program for electronics, a subscription model in which you pay an upfront fee to use a television, notebook computer, tablet computer or mobile phone for a certain period of time. When you decide to move on, Best Buy will take the product back, giving you some sort of credit toward a new purchase.

There are many reasons this is interesting:

  1. Best Buy can probably deal with the old stuff more efficiently than your local town or city because I get the sense that many local governments still have no idea how to handle electronic waste.
  2. YOU can get something new without feeling quite as guilty.
  3. Best Buy locks you into your next purchase ahead of time, establishing more long-term relationships with consumers that might otherwise have been buying more opportunistically.
  4. Best Buy gains a level of control over its recycling destiny. This will be important as state e-waste laws kick in more deeply. The state law in New York, for example, requires manufacturers to be involved with take back starting in April 2011. Seems like any retailer that could help might have an advantage as a sales partner, don't you think?

Seems to me that more retailers and product manufacturers involved with electronics, appliances and lighting should be exploring ways to "close the loop" in product lifecycles, making it easier for people to get rid of the old stuff responsibly while investing in the "new" which should be (in theory) more energy-efficient and more environmentally sustainable from a materials standpoint.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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