'Marketplace' Report: Sony Recycling Sony has announced a plan to offer free recycling of its products in the United States. Special recycling centers will be set up for customers to drop off their Sony equipment such as laptops, TVs and stereos.

'Marketplace' Report: Sony Recycling

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JAMES HATTORI, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

If you've got a growing collection of old Sony TVs, computers, Walkmen or PlayStations gathering dust up in the attic, have I got a deal for you. Sony will take them back. Beginning September 15th, they'll have 75 locations around the country set up for recycling their products.

Joining us is John Dimsdale from MARKETPLACE.

John, first off, aren't there other electronic companies with recycling programs? I know cell phones are collected, aren't they?

JOHN DIMSDALE: Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much every big electronics company - Dell, H.P., Apple, Motorola - they will have some sort of recycling program for their old products.

HATTORI: So what makes Sony's announcement a big deal?

DIMSDALE: Well, there's a couple of reasons. Other companies depend on their customers to ship their products back to them. Sony is the first to have drop-off centers. And that's what recycling advocates have been pushing for. They point out that these TVs, stereos, fax machines, they all have toxic materials in them - lead, cadmium, mercury. And when they end up in landfills, all that stuff leaks into the ground and gets into the drinking water. So they want to make it easy for consumers to stop throwing this stuff out with the trash.

The other significance here is that Sony is a television maker. Old TVs are particularly hard to handle, much more difficult to recycle compared to computers or cell phones. Sony is the first to take TVs back on a regular basis, which is also good news for recycling advocates. TV makers have been resisting these recycling programs because of the cost. And now Sony is showing that it can be done, and environmentalists are hoping that other TV makers will have to get with the program.

HATTORI: Well, let's see, 75 drop-off centers around the country. Doesn't seem like an awful lot. Maybe a long drive with your TV in the trunk, huh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIMSDALE: And they're not spread very evenly geographically - 19 in Minnesota, 17 in California. There's only one in New York, and none in 32 states. But Sony says that they'll double the number by next year, and they have a goal of ultimately having a drop-off center within 20 miles of 95 percent of the population.

HATTORI: How far does their goodwill extend? Will they take other products made by other companies?

DIMSDALE: They will, but they say they're going to charge a fee if it's manufactured by another company. So it would be best to first check with the Web site of the manufacturer of whatever TV or electronic product you're trying to get rid of just to see if they have a take-back program. And you know, a lot of states are beginning to mandate free electronics recycling. Just this year, five more state legislatures approved programs to require manufacturers to collect discards. California is in the lead. There's an extra fee when you buy a TV or a computer in California.

There are also efforts by manufacturers to reduce the toxic materials in their products to begin with, although alternatives to mercury and lead so far don't work very well, and it's a question of how much are consumers willing to pay for their TVs and stereos to be green.

HATTORI: And Madeleine wants to know if they'll take back "Spider-Man 3." No wait, that's a different part of Sony.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HATTORI: Thanks, John. John Dimsdale of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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