eBay Forms Industry Group to Tackle E-Waste

At CES, the online auctioneer launches an online clearinghouse for reselling, recycling or donating used computers and electronics. The Rethink Initiative for "e-waste" is backed by a cadre of computer hardware vendors.

LAS VEGAS—Online auction giant eBay Inc. is leading an effort to encourage the recycling or resale of used computers and consumers electronics.

eBay on Wednesday launched the Rethink Initiative and a related Web site at the International Electronics Show here. The initiative brings together major IT companies such as Intel Corp. with government agencies and non-profits to tackle the issue of so-called e-waste.

A Rethink Web site provides information on properly disposing of old equipment, including by selling it on eBay. But the site also compiles links to partners that recycle equipment or accept donations for charity.

E-waste has become an increasing problem as consumers and businesses rapidly replace older computers and electronics. Gartner Inc. estimates that about 133,000 PCs are becoming obsolete every day in the United States.

Meanwhile, consumers will throw out about 400 million electronics each year in this decade, eBay CEO and President Meg Whitman said. When thrown into landfills, computers can pose environmental risks because they contain such hazardous materials as lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury.

"We as an industry need to do more," Whitman said. "Together were helping to build awareness to safely dispose of used computers and consumer electronics."

The industry initiative is only a first step toward tackling e-waste, Whitman said. It focuses on education U.S. consumers and business about e-waste options by tapping into eBays community of 125 million U.S. members.

However, the plan does not address a major economic issue surrounding computer recycling: cost. Most recycling programs from PC makers, government and non-profits require consumers and businesses to pay a fee to recycle equipment.

"Were not doing anything specifically to reduce the cost of recycling on the consumer, but were letting them know of the options they do have," said Patrick Jabal, director of eBays computers and networking category, in response to a reporters question.

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