Are cell phone and printer cartridge recylers a scam?
July 15, 2007 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Whats up with these postage-paid cell phone and ink cartridge recycling baggies I see everywhere?

I've noticed these things several places around the campus (University of Illinois at Chicago) tacked up on bulletin boards in halls and computer labs.

Basically its a cardboard sign that has about 30 or 40 plastic bags attached to it. You rip off a bag, drop in your old cell phone or ink jet cartridge, seal the bag (it has a sticky strip), and then drop it into a mail box.

The card board signage has lots of green sounding mantras, "retrieve. refresh. reuse." and "Together, we are saving the environment." But beyond that there is no other information besides a disclaimer which reads, "This cartridge return program is not sponsored by o affiliated with the cartridge manufacturer."

Who takes this stuff? What happens after it is "recycled?"

The address on the bags is simply "Recycling Center, PO Box 683000, Franklin, TN 37068-9911" and through some googling I've found that the PO Box belongs to AAA Environmental, Inc., and that this is some sort of pay-per recycling gig??

It all reeks of some sort of for-profit scam. Should I yank these things off the bulletin boards and trash them?
posted by wfrgms to Grab Bag (20 answers total)
 
It all reeks of some sort of for-profit scam.

As long as you're not required to pay for dropping off your phone/cartridge, why does it matter?

Should I yank these things off the bulletin boards and trash them?

That depends. Are you in junior high school? All snark aside, this is not something to get all worked up about. If the choice is putting my used cell phone into one of these things or into the garbage, I'd do this every time.
posted by pdb at 10:14 AM on July 15, 2007


Sounds like a way for a company to get a lot of printer cartridges and old cell phones for recycling for a relatively low price. No doubt they'll refurb them and sell them at a profit.

I'm not sure how that equates with a scam, since most the people who will use those envelopes would otherwise have just thrown the items away or left them languishing in a drawer somewhere. Unless they promise something in return that you think you're not going to get, what's scammy about this?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2007


Some of the inexpensive off-brand ink cartridges for sale are remanufactured. This might be where they get the cartridges to remanufacture.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2007


What happens after it is "recycled?"

I'd imagine they re-fill the inkjet cartridges and sell them. And fix the phones if necessary and sell them.

It all reeks of some sort of for-profit scam.

Just because it's for-profit, that doesn't make it a "scam." You know when you put aluminum cans into a recycling bin without charge, eventually someone is going to make money off of them. I hope this won't stop you from recycling.

Why are you so worked up about this?
posted by grouse at 10:23 AM on July 15, 2007


Possibly your computing department put these up to help with recycling and make some extra money. Or maybe some campus group is using it as a fund raiser.

Sorta related: donate your old phone to needy causes such as domestic violence prevention.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:29 AM on July 15, 2007


Scam? What the hell?
posted by odinsdream at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2007


Why are you so worked up about this?

I'm not "worked up" or in hysterics, but I was concerned because these things seem borderline misleading. Also they kind of remind me of "environmental spam" akin to signs like these. Lastly, it just seems sneaky and underhanded to commender a portion of the bulletin boards all around campus for what is essentially a for profit enterprise.
posted by wfrgms at 10:36 AM on July 15, 2007


I was concerned because these things seem borderline misleading.

I don't understand how they could possibly be misleading. What is the disconnect between what people will expect and what they will get?

I think your other objections are sound. It's not cool for a commercial organization to take up space on all the campus bulletin boards. But if your university is anything like the others I've visited and studied in, they aren't the only ones. Do you want to police the bulletin boards for other commercial advertisements? If not, then I don't think you have a good reason these deserve extra scrutiny.
posted by grouse at 10:41 AM on July 15, 2007


Lastly, it just seems sneaky and underhanded to commender a portion of the bulletin boards all around campus for what is essentially a for profit enterprise.

Are there solicitations on these bulletin boards for moving companies, credit card offers, and the like? Or for selling furniture and stuff?

It seems like this is a pretty benign use of space - yeah, somebody somewhere makes a buck off it, but that's America for ya. It's a good service to offer - if it prevents someone from throwing a toxic phone battery in the trash, it helps.
posted by pdb at 10:45 AM on July 15, 2007


Not sure how it's misleading. It seems to just say recycle your phones/ink cartridges and gives you the envelope to do so.

I'm not sure how your university works, but some have a poster policy (here's mine) dictating who can post on bulletin boards and how. If commercial postings are allowed (are there credit offers and pizza menus also?), then this would be allowed too. If not, maybe you can complain to the university and see if they sponsor their own recycling programs. On search, they do sponsor inkjet recycling.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2007


Lastly, it just seems sneaky and underhanded to commender a portion of the bulletin boards all around campus for what is essentially a for profit enterprise.

commandeer.

If you really feel this way, you should take it up with whatever part of your school deals with the bulletin board, not take matters into your own hands.
posted by mkultra at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2007


On further search, this looks like the related policy at your university.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2007


Our NPO recycles them for profit via dropoff boxes hither and thither.

We've used a couple, and we don't make much, but they do "recycle" them. Considering the market for empty cartridges on places like eBay, they make a good bit of money.
posted by TomMelee at 12:56 PM on July 15, 2007


I do a lot of Freecycling. I am fully aware that several of the things that I have given away (including a cell phone that worked fine but wasn't compatible with my new network, a VOIP USB phone that I never used, a brand-new webcam I never used, a perfectly good television in need of a new power cord, etc.) were probably going to be re-sold on Ebay or at car boot sales or junk shops and that the people who took the items were doing so in hopes of making a profit. I absolutely have no problem with that, because the point for me was to keep these things out of the trash. Every used telephone or printer cartridge that is refurbished means that one less has to be made new (and, in the case of the cell phones, could mean that someone in a third-world country who couldn't afford a new phone can now have a perfectly functional used phone). Yes, someone is making a profit, but so what? The greater good is still being served. If you want to rip things down, go into the women's toilets and rip down all the crisis pregnancy center fliers.
posted by cilantro at 1:16 PM on July 15, 2007


How are these misleading? What exactly did you initially think when you read the signs? I can't think of any other reaction than " a company wishes to refill my ink cartridges and sell them for profit" and I don't think most people have a problem with that. That's what recycling is.
posted by almostmanda at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2007


Actually---"cilantro", it doesn't mean they're not remade.

Lots of places take the old cartridges simply to "suck out" the remaining ink and/or rip-off the copper plated print heads for recycling, toss the old ones and their heavy metal guts into trash heaps.

There was an interesting article somewhere recently about someone's trip to India, and one of the cottage industries he found was people covered in ink who worked to recover the bits of metal and ink from the cartridges. I want to say it was in Wired--but it might very well have been a link from the metafilter...
posted by TomMelee at 1:41 PM on July 15, 2007


Lots of places take the old cartridges simply to "suck out" the remaining ink and/or rip-off the copper plated print heads for recycling, toss the old ones and their heavy metal guts into trash heaps.

Yeah, this is just one more concern.

Recently there was a story about junked University of Illinois computers finding there way into garbage heaps in rural China.
posted by wfrgms at 2:50 PM on July 15, 2007


Just out of curiosity, why was I deleted? it wasn't a serious answer, but neither was it particularly snarky.
posted by nax at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2007


ust out of curiosity, why was I deleted?

FAQ #89, P3
posted by carsonb at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2007


It all reeks of some sort of for-profit scam.

If recycling isn't making a profit, you're not doing it right.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:32 AM on July 16, 2007


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