For Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, it’s five Eiffel Towers. For Gov. Mark Dayton, it’s 200,000 Paul Bunyan statues.
No matter how you measure, though, it comes to 1 billion pounds: the amount of consumer electronics and appliances that Best Buy has recycled since launching its free recycling program five years ago.
Dayton and Joly were on hand Thursday at Best Buy’s Richfield headquarters for a ceremony honoring the company’s recycling achievement and announcing its next goal: recycling 2 billion additional pounds by 2020. “Recycling efforts are not just a nice thing to do; they’re an integral part of our transformation,” Joly said. “We’re solving a problem for our customers.”
Calling Best Buy’s program “the biggest and, we believe, the best consumer electronics recycling program on the planet,” Joly joked that he wouldn’t mind seeing Best Buy customers recycle a TV every year.
Dayton issued a state proclamation honoring the company’s efforts and thanked the company “on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota and of the world.” Noting that Best Buy erases all the data from recycled items, Dayton made his own joke.
“Some government officials will start recycling computers with you, some of them probably on pretty short notice,” he said.
But the growth of electronic waste is no joke, Best Buy officials said. Technology is the fastest-growing waste stream on the planet, said Scott Weislow, the company’s senior director of environmental services. Best Buy has seen its recycling volume grow by 15 to 20 percent a year since the program started.
Consumer electronics contain hazardous materials like lead and mercury as well as precious metals like gold and silver. In both cases, it’s better to recover the materials than to dump them. Appliances typically contain large amounts of steel, aluminum and copper.
“It’s a lot more cost-effective to recycle those materials than to mine them,” Weislow said. “You’re not expending energy to do the mining, you’re not refining, you’re not disturbing the earth.”
Virtually 100 percent of all materials in recycled electronics and appliances are recovered, Weislow said. Best Buy audits all of its recycling vendors to make sure they comply with regulations.
Best Buy accepts electronics to be recycled for free at its more than 1,400 stores, with no purchase required. The company will recycle large household appliances for free if a customer purchases a new item. Weislow said the program pays for itself through the sale of the recycled goods to vendors.
On Thursday, Jason Ogurak of Edina stopped at a Best Buy in Richfield to drop off a large old cathode ray tube monitor. He walked in the door, handed it to an associate and left, all in about 10 seconds.
“I recycle all the big monitors I have,” said Ogurak, who owns a computer repair and restoration business. Before the Best Buy recycling program started, he said, “I just kind of stockpiled them.
“It’s a good thing.”