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Repurposing Old Tech Equipment

What do you do with old tech equipment? These entrepreneurs give it a whole new life.

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This story appears in the October 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

With the mountains of old cell phones, computers, TVs and various other outdated technological products piling up, savvy entrepreneurs are getting into the business of e-cycling. According to an industry report from the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, 1.5 billion pounds of electronic equipment are processed annually, and the association estimates that around 3 billion units of consumer electronics will be scrapped in the next decade. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates around 55 million PCs will be landfilled and 150 million PCs recycled in 2005.

There's quite a buzz going on right now within the arena, according to Rick Goss, director of environmental affairs at the Electronic Industries Alliance, a partnership representing U.S. technology manufacturers. He points to states like and Maine, which have recently enacted programs to mandate recycling of old technologies, giving entrepreneurs an opening to offer recycling services to companies who will pay to dispose of their old equipment. In California, for instance, an Electronic Waste Recycling Fee has been charged to every purchaser of a new computer monitor or TV since July, which will help provide funds to recyclers (both consumers and collectors) when the items are recycled (much like aluminum and glass redemption programs). Other states and federal entities are considering similar programs. Says Goss, "It's incumbent upon the institutional players--industry, government, retailers, recyclers--to come up with mechanisms that allow the consumer a readily available way to turn in a used [tech] item and know that it's going to be properly recycled."

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