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National Restaurant Association - Plugging into a new green trend

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Plugging into a new green trend

Add a term to the vocabulary of green-minded restaurateurs: e-cycling, or keeping discarded computers, TVs, POS systems and other electronic devices out of landfills.

Sustainably disposing of those familiar restaurant appliances is of concern not only because of the environmental considerations, but also the legal ones. Pennsylvania soon will become the 24th state to prohibit so-called e-waste from being dumped. Restaurants that drop old televisions, guest pagers, monitor screens or even cell phones into the trash could be subject to fines. 

"Recycling is not a choice anymore," says Mark Neuville, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. "It’s a requirement."

The states are concerned about lead and other metals used in electronics. They're also concerned about the sheer volume. More than 205 million computers and components and more than 27 million TVs are scrapped annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

No wonder an infrastructure for handling e-waste is taking shape. Experts cite three channels:

Donation. Schools, charities and other businesses often welcome donations of working computers and televisions. Some charities have drives to collect e-waste for re-use or volume sales to commercial recyclers.

Take-back programs. Electronics manufacturers and sellers often will (and are required in many states) take back equipment they’ve sold. Retailers like Best Buy typically charge $10 for handling e-waste, and California sellers include an $8 recycling fee in the upfront price of all equipment, Neuville says. Take-back arrangements are the norm for services that install and maintain equipment.

Commercial recyclers. Just about every area has businesses that recover and resell materials from e-waste, Neuville says. With enough volume, a restaurant operation might even be able to sell the e-waste, he adds.

"Anything with an on-off switch can be recycled," he says. "There are certainly a lot of those in restaurants."

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