SAN FRANCISCO Under pressure to help dispose some of the electronic waste it helped create, Best Buy Co. is testing a free program that will offer consumers a convenient way to ensure millions of obsolescent TVs, old computers and other unwanted gadgets don't poison the nation's dumps.
The trial announced Monday covers 117 Best Buy stores scattered across eight states that will collect a wide variety of electronic detritus at no charge, even if the retailer based in Richfield, Minn., didn't originally sell the merchandise.
The pilot stores are in Best Buy's northern California, Minneapolis and Baltimore markets, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Depending on how the test goes, the nation's largest electronics retailer may expand the recycling program to all of its 922 stores in the United States.
"We want to take the time to learn if we can handle this before we go any further," said Best Buy spokeswoman Kelly Groehler. "We know the need is there and the waste stream is there. We think everyone needs to bear some responsibility for this consumers, retailers and manufacturers."
As it is, Best Buy's test is believed to be the most extensive free electronics recycling program to be offered by a major retailer so far.
Consumers will be able to bring in up to two gadgets per day at the participating Best Buy stores. The list of acceptable items includes computer processors, computer monitors and televisions with screens up to 32 inches. Console televisions, air conditioners, microwave ovens and other large appliances won't be accepted.
Best Buy agreed to set up the recycling trial after a social responsibility group, As You Sow, submitted a proposal that would have asked the company's shareholders to endorse an electronics recycling program. As You Sow withdrew the proposal after Best Buy indicated it was already exploring ways to expand its existing recycling programs.
"This is a step in the right direction," said Conrad MacKerron, director of As You Sow's corporate social responsibility program. He is hoping Best Buy's recycling trial will prompt other major electronics retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc. to set up similar programs.