Earth Day 2013 Special Gadgetology Report: Who is Recycling Electronics and Buying Green Gadgets?Here we are celebrating another Earth Day surrounded by signs that Mother Earth is feeling pretty stressed out. Although it’s not difficult to find somewhere to recycle your plastic bottles or newspapers, it may not be as easy to figure out what to do with your old electronics. Electronic manufacturers have become more diligent about replacing toxic materials, eliminating environmentally harmful manufacturing processes, and generally making their products “greener” in many respects. Despite the fact that there are still lots of reasons to properly dispose of your old gadgets and use rating systems that can help you buy the greenest products, not enough gadget buyers and owners are being conscientious about being green with gadgets.
Many Still Don’t Recycle Their Electronics Products

*Percentage of people who don’t recycle electronics is more than half of what it was three years ago but it’s still more than a quarter of the respondents. Those under 30 are the worst recycling offenders.

Almost three years ago Retrevo ran a survey that indicated over 60% of the households across the country weren’t recycling their electronics. The most common reason cited was they just didn’t around to it. The bad news is that the laziness or “not getting around to it,” is still the most common excuse but the good news is that it’s a lot smaller percentage of people who say they aren’t recycling electronics. The younger generation, including those under 30 are the worst offenders with 17% or them saying they just don’t get around to it compared to 8% of those over 30.

  Here’s a partial list of some of the toxic materials still found in many electronics products all of which can cause great harm to humans and the environment if not properly disposed.

  • Lead in the glass of CRTs and cadmium in the CRT phosphors
  • PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) in transformers
  • Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in plastics and printed circuit boards
  • Arsenic in some LEDs and printed circuit boards
  • Cadmium in NiCad batteries, toners and semiconductors
  • Lithium in Li-ion batteries
  • Mercury in some LCD backlights, and printed circuit boards
  • PVC in cable insulation and other plastics; when burned they release hydrogen chloride gas
  • Radioactive Americium in some smoke detectors
Electronics Get Recycled the Least

Many municipalities provide households with recycling containers for paper products, glass and metal, and even compost. To recycle electronics you have to find a location that will accept them. The third most common excuse for not recycling, after “don’t get around to it,” and “don’t know where to take them,” is the fact that it’s recycling is not available. In many cases this is being addressed by resellers and manufacturers who are stepping up and providing recycling services for electronics products.

  Where to Take Your Old Electronics
Best Buy accepts almost any electronics product and Staples accepts a more limited number of types but there is no charge at either store. Costco, Sam's Club, and others offer a trade-in program for old gadgets and gear as well as recycling services that will dispose of them properly. Office Depot gives you a box that you fill up with your old gadgets and take back to the store. Unfortunately, a box costs up to $15. There are also individual companies getting involved like ecoATM offering a kiosk-based service for trade-ins on old cell phones. Many manufacturers are also offering lots of different recycling, buyback, and trade-in services for handling old devices. Apple for example, offers free recycling of its products and in some cases applies cash back and discounts toward future purchases.
Lots of Consumers Don’t Care if a Gadget is Green

There are some good rating systems available like Energy Star and EPEAT that offer consumers a way to tell which products are more environmentally friendly than others. Unfortunately, in this study we found a large percentage of respondents indicating they don’t pay much attention to energy ratings when purchasing a product. It appears that the younger generations need the most education in this area. Although a large percentage (67%) of respondents indicated that they trust “green” ratings like Energy Star, only 42% of respondents say they use them when deciding what to buy. That percentage drops to 35% for the younger generation.

Most Consumers Don’t Feel Need to Buy Greenest Gadgets*

Question: Do you feel guilty if you don’t buy a “green” gadget?
Yes, and I usually buy the “greenest” gadget 10%
Yes, but I end up buying whatever gadget I like the best 13%
Yes, but I end up buying the gadget with the best price 10%
No, because I always try and buy a “green” gadget 21%
No, it doesn’t bother me if a gadget I buy is not green 30%
No, because price is more important 15%

When Retrevo asked consumers if they feel guilty when they don’t buy a green gadget, we were disappointed to learn that nearly 68% of respondents either feel no guilt for not buying the greenest gadgets or feel guilty but usually end up with a different gadget. Among that group 30% indicated they didn’t care if the gadget they bought was green or not while another 15% said price trumped green.

Conclusion:We were encouraged, to see how many more respondents indicated they now recycle their electronics but we also feel there is a lot of room for improvement in both recycling and buying greener products. Perhaps if more consumers where aware about the harm improperly disposed gadgets can bring to humans and the environment, more people would be “greener” with gadgets; buying ones with higher “green” ratings and recycling them when done using them.
About the StudyThe Amazon studies were conducted via the Bizrate Insights survey platform and offered to online buyers immediately after purchasing from the Bizrate Insights Network of over 5,200 ecommerce retailers in the US and Canada. Data from this study was collected from 3,604 online buyers from April 12th – 15th, 2013.
About RetrevoRetrevo.com has been helping shoppers discover, evaluate and buy gadgets since 2006. The site offers product reviews, product ratings, editorial recommendations and other product landscape perspectives that inform what, when and where-to-buy decisions.
About Bizrate InsightsFor over 12 years, Bizrate Insights has helped retailers listen to their customers in a way that is fast and measurable, resulting in insights, action, conversation, and customer loyalty. The Bizrate Insights customer feedback and ratings platform allows retailers to collect seller ratings directly from verified customers. Standard ratings are published across the leading comparison shopping site, Bizrate.com, and syndicated across the web’s largest search engines to help drive conversion and traffic. Collecting over 16 million surveys annually, Bizrate Insights is one of the largest sources of consumer-generated review content in the world, delivering actionable insights and valuable shopper data to key decision makers in e-commerce.

Visit http://bizrateinsights.com to learn more about our FREE and paid buyer and site abandonment survey and reporting products.

Graphics from this study can be downloaded here.

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