Microsoft Commits to Recycling Cell Phones, PCs, Other Electronics

The company is named a founding member of R2 Leaders, a group dedicated to combating e-waste by responsibly recycling used electronics.

recycling mobile and PCs

Microsoft is championing the e-waste recycling movement.

The Redmond, Wash.-based tech titan, along with Sony America, Xerox and Goodwill Industries, has been named a founding member of R2 Leaders, an electronics recycling group that aims to keep used gadgets and PCs out of landfills. "This reflects Microsoft's commitment to support the development of standards for better reuse and recycling of electronic devices around the world," said Josh Henretig, group manager of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft.

"We are excited to demonstrate our commitment to the responsible recycling of electronics by becoming a founding member of the R2 Leaders program," he said in a statement.

The R2 Standard calls for recyclers to take into account stringent environmental, health and security requirements for the safe handling of electronics. The standard "ensures that more toxic material streams are managed safely and responsibly by downstream vendors—all the way to final disposition," said Henretig. Currently, 540 facilities across 17 countries carry R2 Standard certification.

The standard also helps halt the spread of toxic materials that are often present in today's electronics. Henretig added that R2 "prohibits e-recyclers and their downstream vendors from exporting these more toxic materials to countries that have enacted laws making their import illegal."

E-waste has become a growing concern for the tech industry. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the 29.4 million computers disposed of in 2009, only 18 million were recycled, or only 38 percent of their total weight.

The figures grow grimmer for the mobile device market, which due to the popularity of smartphones like the iPad, has experienced explosive growth over the past few years.

An estimated 129 million mobile devices were disposed of in 2009, yet only 11.7 million were recycled. By weight, just 8 percent were reintroduced to the electronics manufacturing supply chain.

Microsoft seeks to reduce the number of devices that end up contaminating the environment. One way is to extend the lifecycle of used electronics.

The company encourages Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) and Microsoft Registered Refurbisher programs "to look at certification as a way to improve their business. For example, the new R2 2013 Ready for Reuse option is a great way to demonstrate the value of the refurbished PCs they offer," said Henretig. R2 will also be taken into consideration when Microsoft evaluates IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) suppliers for its recycling programs.

Microsoft runs recycling programs for its own Surface, Xbox and Nokia devices. The company completed the acquisition of Nokia's handset business in April.

Microsoft isn't alone in attempting to keep electronics and hazardous substances out of waste streams. Apple retail stores accept the devices like the iPad and MacBook for recycling at no cost and host events that welcome the wares of other electronics manufacturers. The Cupertino, Calif.-based device maker also eliminated mercury, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), brominated flame retardants (BFRs), arsenic and other toxic materials from its offerings.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...