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In the 21st century, recycling is hardly a new idea. We are all aware now that our consumption of disposable products is a big problem for landfills, and in the long run it will become an issue of resource availability. Our planet has a limited amount of resources for making new products, and more and more we are learning that in order to keep civilization going we will need to make smarter decisions about using up resources and throwing away trash.

As office supply companies are significant culprits in the creation of disposable products (which take up space in landfills) and of machines with toxic components that harm the planet when thrown away through traditional methods, many major office supply outlets have launched recycling programs to cut down on office waste.

Some of the simplest steps a business or individual can take toward being eco-conscious are to buy recycled products, to reduce the use of disposable products like paper and to recycle used materials whenever possible.

While reducing the load of common recyclable materials that reaches landfills is crucial, it is no longer sufficient to help us stay ahead. Most homes and businesses have many types of electronics, from cell phones to computers to televisions. These products are even more bulky and toxic to the environment than other non-biodegradable items. Not only do electronics contain materials like mercury, copper, and lead that can contaminate ground soil and water, but the production of these machines involves collecting these toxic materials (which are limited resources) from the earth. Thus, recycling your old electronics not only reduces the amount of new material that must be collected to build new machines, but it also assures that these toxic substances are not sitting in landfills and leaching into the soil and groundwater.

Two of our top sites for office supplies online, Office Depot and Staples, have electronics recycling programs designed to help us be more earth-friendly.

Office Depot s Tech Recycling Service is a simple program that accepts a wide range of electronics including computers, monitors, cell phones, MP3 players, cameras, computer peripherals and many other items. To use the Tech Recycling Service, you must visit an Office Depot store and purchase a box (available in three sizes). Then, you fill the box with approved items and return it, unsealed, to an Office Depot location for approval and shipping. The store ships your items to another location for recycling, where they are shredded and separated into raw materials (most commonly glass, plastic, aluminum and copper). Although it is recommended that you remove all personal data from your devices prior to recycling, the shredding process destroys any chance of your data being recovered.

Staples  Computer and Office Technology Recycling program accepts both large and small electronics products. To use this program, simply bring your old electronics items to any Staples retail store and visit the customer service desk. There is a fee for larger products (computers, monitors, fax machines and other large items), but small electronics like computer peripherals, cell phones, PDAs and rechargeable batteries can be recycled free of charge. The fee for large electronics covers shipping the products to a specialty recycling center, and the cost of having these products wiped of information and disassembled into component parts. Some of the most common disposable office products are ink and toner cartridges, and Staples will give you $2 in rewards (redeemable for future purchases) for every ink cartridge you recycle. Both Staples and Office Depot also have ink/toner refill services at most retail stores. With this service you can have your old cartridges refilled with ink/toner for a much lower cost than buying new cartridges, and you re doing the earth a favor by reducing waste.

Our top three office supply stores all have retail locations across the US, and offer a range of services through their storefronts that aren t available through their websites. You might have to visit the store in person to recycle electronics or refill your ink cartridges, but buying your office supplies online is a great way to save time and money.

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