By John DeFore
It’s getting more common for major retailers to have some sort of product recycling program, from Ikea’s takeback of compact fluorescents to the bins near Best Buy entrances where customers can toss spent ink jet cartridges.
But not many stores are willing to pay for the privilege of recycling your junk. Costco has started doing just that, by giving customers store credit for what it determines to be the market value of used electronics — from major purchases like laptops to those little things, like cell phones and MP3 players, that tend to clutter backs of desk drawers when they cease to be useful.
An online calculator lets users get a ballpark trade-in value before giving items away, although a disclaimer notes that all estimates are subject to re-evaluation upon in-person inspection. (A third party, GreenSight Technologies, handles the inspections.) Customers don’t even have to visit a brick-and-mortar store to participate; as this page explains, they can download a pre-paid UPS label to ship items back and get a Costco gift card in the mail.
Of course, plenty of gear destined for this program has minimal value — the first-generation iPod Shuffle merits a mere four bucks — and some items, such as fax machines and CRT monitors, are deemed worthless. Happily, the program accepts even the latter for recycling, keeping hazardous materials out of landfills — and, more important to some customers, out of the attic or hall closet.