Apple to Recycle Any Old Computer for Free - Plus, Apple Credit Could be in Your Future

By Peter Bernstein August 16, 2011

With all of the other news regarding Apple — intellectual property issues (almost daily including HTC filing its third one today), new iPhone speculation, a deal with Starbucks, blockbuster earnings, etc. — you may have missed the following. Last week Apple quietly expanded its reuse and recycling program to include any computer from any manufacturer.

According to, in addition to its old electronics recycling bin at its headquarters in Cupertino, free recycling of batteries at its stores, and free pickup and disposal of any computer or display terminal through WeRecycle! (with free prepaid shipping label), Apple will now also take back any computer and give you an Apple gift card for its “fair market value” if it qualifies for reuse. In an era where “green” stories have taken a back seat to other more pressing news, this is worth noting. It is especially worth noting since there are an estimated almost 70 million used computers in the U.S. alone, and it is best to let them be retired or be re-purposed by an entity that can assureus it will be properly taken care of without causing further damage to the environment by decomposing in an illegal dump.

This is a nice example of corporate responsibility. It is also an example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” Comments on various blogs that have reported on the story have been somewhat harsh. They fall into two general categories:

1.       Apple way undervalues used computers and people who think their computer is still useable would do better on eBay or Craigslist.

2.       Since Apple is giving gift cards and not cash this has nothing to do with them being responsible corporate citizens.


On the first point, getting annoyed because you think you can do better by auctioning it yourself is not necessarily doing the environment (who knows where it may end up) or the buyer any favors. That relic is probably also running obsolete software, and a potential buyer may not appreciate the horsepower your oldie but no so goodie has to offer.

On the second point, Apple is a business and not a charity. If Apple can do well by doing good, I am mystified as to why that is a bad thing. This is a safe, simple and convenient option for disposing of something which you believe has out-lived its usefulness. The nice thing about options is that it means you have a choice. If you don’t like the choice, either because you don’t want to own anything Apple and/or believe you can get a better offer, that is entirely your decision. This is not a case of being ordered to do something.

It is time to go rummage around and see what kind of contribution I can make to the cause. Free is fine, but there could be a lot of iTunes in it for me. Kudos to Apple on this one.

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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