Dell Pledges To Recycle All Its Hardware For Free

The new program, which was announced by the company's chairman, Michael Dell, removes the current requirement that customers must buy a new system to recycle old gear without paying for the pick-up.

"We were the first in the computer industry to offer free recycling," said Dell during a call with reporters on Wednesday. "We did that in 2004. This is another first, to give consumers free recycling whether they're buying a new product or not."

Dell plans to take the program live in the U.S. in September, and follow with a global roll-out in November.

Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer, two Dell rivals in the consumer computer market, have recycling programs in place, but each requires that the customer purchase a new PC or Mac to be eligible. Apple's for-free plan, first announced in April, went into effect this month. HP's take-back program, while not officially free, provides a rebate coupon that usually offsets the $13 to $34 recycling cost.

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"We don't believe consumers should have to pay for recycling," Dell said.

Dell will use the same process for the new program as the one consumers now use as they purchase new hardware, said Dell. Users go online, enter the hardware's serial number (which is prominent on a sticker affixed to all Dell-branded gear), and print a shipping label; pack the electronics; and then go back online to schedule an at-home pick-up.

Customers are responsible for deleting all data on recycled goods. added another Dell executive, Tod Arbogast, senior manager of the company's sustainable business group.

"It just makes sense to do this," added Dell, who dismissed questions about the program's impact on the company's margins. "I hope this will bring in more customers. Consumers are thinking of these [recycling] issues every day."

Dell's recycling shift was greeted warmly by both the National Recycling Coalition and the Computer Takeback Campaign.

"No other competitor [of Dell's] does this," said Kate Krebs, the executive director of the National Recycling Coalition during the teleconference call. "We're calling on all [computer makers] to match this commitment. Consumers need convenient recycling solutions [and] computer manufacturers have a duty to lead the way."

The Computer Takeback Campaign's vice chairperson, Robin Schneider, echoed Krebs in a statement released Wednesday. "By taking responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life, Dell is playing a leadership role in the corporate community. We call on other electronics companies to match Dell's commitment to the environment by offering free recycling of all their products," said Schneider.

According to the Computer Takeback Campaign, between 315 and 600 million desktops and notebooks in the U.S. will soon be obsolete. These systems represent enough gear to cover 472 square miles -- the area of Los Angeles -- to a depth of 22 feet.

More information about the free recycling will be posted to the Dell Web site as the September U.S. launch nears, a company spokesperson said.