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HP, Apple don't join EPA recycling challenge

By: Jeremy Carroll

January 3, 2013

WASHINGTON (Jan. 3, 11:10 a.m. ET) — When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the electronics recycling challenge in September, some of the country’s biggest electronics retailers and manufacturers signed on the dotted line.

But noticeably absent were two of the biggest names in the field: Apple Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. HP is the world’s biggest computer manufacturer and Apple makes many popular devices, including the iPhone and iPad, along with computers, and has a number of retail stores throughout the country.

Both companies would not answer why they didn’t sign on or if they plan to join the challenge, which asks companies to use only electronics recyclers that are certified by either R2 or e-Stewards. The challenge also requires participants to share data with EPA and the public.

“I can confirm we are not participating in the program,” said HP spokesman Michael Thacker.

Thacker said he did not know if HP plans to join in the future or why it didn’t sign on.

Apple officials did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Best Buy Co. Inc., LG Electronics, Panasonic Corp., Samsung Electronics, Sharp Electronics Corp., Sprint Nextel Corp., Staples Inc., Dell Inc., Sony Corp. of America and Nokia all signed on to the challenge in a ceremony at Vintage Tech Recyclers in Romeoville, Ill.

Despite not signing on, both Apple and HP have extensive recycling programs.

HP has a partnership with challenge partner Staples, which takes electronics from consumers and forwards it to an R2 certified recycler.

Chris Librie, director of environmental initiatives for HP, said the company works solely with recyclers that are R2 certified.

“We have many [partners], but it’s not a lot. It’s a selected group because they do need to meet HP high standards,” Librie said. “We want to ensure the materials are being dealt with responsibly and as much reusable materials are being recovered.”

He said making electronics recycling easy for consumers is the goal.

“I think this general theme of making recycling close, easy and free is a theme that HP wants to continue driving,” Librie said. “It’s an important aspect to make it as convenient as possible.”

According to Apple’s recycling webpage, the company meets the requirements of the Basel Convention and all electronics collected are processed in the region they were collected. Apple forbids hazardous e-waste from being disposed in solid waste landfills or in incinerators, and all lead-containing CRT glass must be smelted by a fully permitted smelting facility in North America, according to its guidelines.

Apple uses Sims Recycling Solutions, according to the company, which is R2 certified and is in the process of becoming e-Stewards certified as well. The company prohibits the export of any hazardous materials from developed to nondeveloped or developing countries.

EPA wouldn’t address the cases of Apple or HP specifically, but said it works closely with electronics manufacturers and retailers to reduce the environmental impacts of electrics across their lifecycle.

“There continues to be great interest from the industry in the electronics challenge and we anticipate the list of participating companies will grow,” said a statement released by the agency.