EBay initiative promotes electronics recycling

Move addresses a growing problem

LAS VEGAS - Ebay has brought together several technology industry heavyweights in an initiative to promote recycling of old computers and other consumer electronics hardware. The move also is an attempt by the industry to pre-empt further electronic waste legislation.

With Intel as its main ally, eBay's new "Rethink Initiative" seeks to bring together public and private organizations to promote recycling and reuse of old PCs and consumer electronics products, the online auctioneer said on Thursday.

"Together we are hoping to build awareness about alternative ways to dispose of computers and consumer electronics," eBay President and Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, said during a news conference announcing the initiative at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Apple Computer, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, distributor Ingram Micro, United Parcel Service and the United States Postal Service are part of the effort, as are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, eBay said.

PC giant Dell is notably absent from the list of participants. "We have been in contact with Dell, they have not said no and over time we hope that they will join," Whitman said. "I invite the industry to join with us to help solve the problem of electronic waste."

The Rethink Web site, http://www.ebay.com/rethink, offers information on recycling options for electronics and options to use eBay to sell still working hardware. While many PC makers offer recycling programs for old hardware, most consumers don't know what to do with old PCs, Whitman said. They are collecting dust in storage, she said.

"We cannot only help reduce ewaste, but also offer economic incentives to consumers, making it easy and even profitable for consumers and businesses to find new uses for old products, while also encouraging responsible disposal of nonworking products," Whitman said.

With the industry initiative, eBay also hopes to prevent further government regulation. The announcement comes days after the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 became active in California, requiring consumers to pay an Electronic Waste Recycling Fee for certain electronic devices including monitors and laptop computers.

"I am not against regulation, if as an industry we have tried to develop a market-based solution," Whitman said. "I would love to try as an industry to come together with market-based solutions so we won't have to face federal and state regulation."