Best Buy just launched a $200 home pick-up recycling program. Is it necessary?

Best Buy wants to keep electronics out of landfills — for a price.

In order to cut back on e-waste, the retailer in April launched a home pick-up recycling service.

Now, customers anywhere in the U.S. can request pickup for their old electronics. The service will remove and recycle up to two large products — like TVs and major appliances — and smaller items like laptops, cameras, and gaming consoles. With 70% of people living within 10 miles of a Best Buy store, the service is convenient for a large portion of the population.

The Standalone Haul-Away service is $199.99, with those subscribed to its membership program, Best Buy Totaltech, saving 20%.

“We feel we have an important role to play in helping our planet, including being there for the entire lifecycle of a product — from the time a customer starts shopping until that product is responsibly recycled,” Tim Dunn, Best Buy’s head of environmental sustainability, said in a statement. “This new service will make this important work even more convenient for customers.”  

Best Buy says that it is the nation’s largest retail collector of e-waste, with the company collecting over 2 billion pounds of electronics and appliances since 2009. In 2021 alone, the company said that it collected over 192 million pounds of consumer products for recycling. But, are customers willing and able to spend nearly $200 to properly dispose of their e-waste? And do they need to?

The problem with electronic waste

E-waste refers to discarded products with a battery or electrical plug. And it’s a big problem.

E-waste is forecast to double by 2050, and is the fastest growing solid waste stream, according to a collaborative report between The Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative, The Sustainable Cycles Programme, and The International Environmental Technology Centre, which is a branch of the United Nations Environment Programme. Around 50 million metric tons of e-waste is generated globally each year, with the report describing it as the equivalent to the weight of 5,000 Eiffel Towers.

As a retailer, Best Buy says that its home pick-up recycling service is part of the company’s continued commitment to protect the environment, and that sustainability has been at the core of its mission for decades.

Best Buy’s new service joins a few recycling options the retailer already has in motion. The company has a Haul-Away offering for shoppers when they purchase a new television, major appliance or fitness equipment wherein old products can be taken away for a small charge. Customers can also drop off up to three electronics per household, per day at Best Buy stores through its everyday recycling program. Shoppers can also participate in the company’s trade-in program, which offers gift cards in exchange for electronic items of value.

“We help keep devices in use longer and out of landfills by leveraging our customer trade-in program, Geek Squad repair services, responsible recycling and Best Buy outlets,” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said on a recent call with analysts. “These are initiatives our customers and vendors value and capabilities no one else has at our scale and breadth.”

“If you use a free program because your state mandates that the manufacturers are responsible, it still requires you to lug [products] around, or put it in a box. And you have to get the box.”

Stacy Savage

Founder & CEO, Zero Waste Strategies

But while Best Buy touts its latest recycling efforts, the latest of which costs the consumer a couple hundred dollars, many states have free e-waste recycling programs. Twenty-five states have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling. Currently, 65% of the U.S. population is covered by a state e-waste recycling law, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. In most states, the manufacturers must pay for it.

Even though many people reside in states that have e-waste legislation, many may not know that it is an option, according to Stacy Savage, founder and CEO of Zero Waste Strategies. “If the equipment manufacturers have not taken on the responsibility of saying, ‘Hey, there’s a law in your state where we’ll take back your stuff for free and recycle it,’ then there’s that education gap.”