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Reduce, Reuse, Profit?
Going green has become a corporate mantra for
many enterprises as they increasingly discover that doing so creates a new way
to save--or even make--money.
addition to company initiatives such as decreasing energy use or reducing the
amount of carbon emissions, corporations are also looking at how to rid
themselves of electronic waste--mobile devices, computers, printers and other
electronics. In 2005, between 1.9 million and 2.2 million tons of electronics
products were discarded in the United
States, with the vast majority dumped in
landfills. As little as 346,000 tons were recycled, according to a study by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Disposal by landfill often leads to
numerous toxic chemicals leaking into the ground.
my 25-plus years of being involved in the recycling industry, I've never seen a
greater rush from corporations to be green than I've seen in the last 12
months," said Norm England, president and CEO of Rechargeable Battery Recycling
Corp. (RBRC), which recycles portable rechargeable batteries and cell phones.
month, Sony announced a new initiative called Sony Take Back Recycling Program,
which the company is offering at 75 drop-off locations in the
operated by Waste Management Recycle America. Dell, Panasonic and others help
customers retire their old I.T. assets.
device e-waste is a compounding problem for many enterprises because of these
products' short life spans. The average mobile phone user gets a new device
every 18 months, and many users have more than one device. As such, mobile
phones are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the e-waste world.
Friedman, CEO of Movero--a managed I.T. services provider focused on mobility
whose services include helping clients recycle or destroy unwanted
devices--describes the box-of-broken-phones phenomenon within many businesses.
sales folks report a common theme. These guys walk into a telecom manager's
office and someone in that proximity has a large box of broken phones on their
desk," Friedman said. "They don't want to throw them out because they have important
information on them, and they feel like they can't because the devices are an
asset of the company."
potential cost savings, legislation, good PR and the shareholder demand for
corporate responsibility are pushing the enterprise to do something with the
box of unwanted phones.
world's largest mobile-phone recycler, ReCellular, which expects to reuse or
recycle more than 4 million devices in 2007, partners for free with enterprises
to institute a collection program in the workplace. About 60 percent of the
phones collected are reused and shipped to more than
countries around the world. ReCellular then pays the enterprises, and the money
can either be donated to charity or used internally for initiatives such as
funding the next wave of devices.
which has recycled more than 36 million pounds of batteries since the company's
inception 11 years ago and processed 5.6 million pounds in 2006, also partners
for free with enterprises and government agencies to set up collection points
for rechargeable batteries from mobile phones and other devices such as
cordless phones. The non-profit company then ships the batteries to Inmetco, a
recycler of metal waste based in Elwood
City, , where
the nickel is extracted and used in the stainless steel industry. Any profit
the RBRC makes from the process is donated to charity, said
a program like this, corporations can be philanthropic to organizations and
hopefully learn to be environmentally responsible while doing so," said.
"It also saves businesses on the cost of disposal. There are certain
regulations for different metals that we deal with."
primarily recycles devices through a reverse logistics program, Friedman said.
The company repairs broken devices or manages the data wipe needed when an
employee leaves the company. As such, companies save a significant amount by
not having to purchase another phone.
these phones have value so getting it fixed is worth it, versus buying another
device, since the second time you buy a device it isn't subsidized," Friedman
a fully outsourced cell-phone trade-in solutions provider, is talking with
managed mobility service providers such as Movero to implement the company's
online trade-in platform, said Sohrob Farudi, CEO of FlipSwap. The company's
trade-in solution is integrated with a number of retail management system
providers such as WorkWireless and TeleTracker, and FlipSwap is looking to
replicate the feat in the enterprise.
tool enables enterprises to determine via Web-based software a guaranteed
trade-in quote for an old mobile phone. The value is issued as instant credit.
FlipSwap then reimburses the organization for
every phone traded in and then either resells or recycles the units. Corporations,
in turn, can receive a rebate check or donate the money to a select charity.
our system, companies are empowering their employees to upgrade and giving them
the ability to get value out of their existing devices," Farudi said.
states and municipalities are also cracking down on e-waste. ,
are among the handful of states that have passed "take-back" laws. made it
illegal to throw away nearly all electronic products, while many states require
companies to provide an accurate accounting for each phone. Laws are likely to
"California is on the
leading edge on a lot of environmental policies and many states are adopting
similar legislation," Newman said. "A lot are now moving toward public
the biggest fear the enterprise has when it comes to shipping away all of those
old phones is security. Companies are afraid their devices may turn up on eBay
if they aren't disposed of properly. There are highly publicized incidences of
people buying devices off of eBay and discovering the previous owner's internal
company emails, databases and personal account information. Resetting the phone
often means sensitive information appears to have been erased but it can be
resurrected using specialized yet inexpensive software found on the Internet.
are waking up to the idea that their phones are becoming a unique challenge to
deal with," said ReCellular's Newman. "I think the first stage was ignoring the
fact that the phones were becoming such a common element of a work environment.
-- Companies haven't really gotten out in front of understanding that these
phones now contain data that can be very business sensitive and that it takes a
unique set of skills to handle that information and delete that information
effectively and properly."
Movero and ReCellular use specialized software and equipment to wipe clean the
data on the devices. There are some 600 different phone models, and a
significant number of those have their own software schemes, Newman said.
very phone-model specific," Newman said. "Some models have a master reset
sequence, but others are very laborious, and you have to go line item by line
item to delete the information. We have 10 engineers that write software."
the promise of effective data wipes, many enterprises still want the majority
of their devices destroyed. They simply don't trust the process.
offered to a lot of customers the prospect of having their devices refurbished
and given to charities, and they couldn't do it," said Friedman. "They couldn't
take the risk."
FlipSwap has run into the same issues, and education will be key in
changing the minds of executives. It certainly doesn't help that a number of
fly-by-night companies have set up shop on the Internet, claiming to give cash
for phones. The industry is becoming a lucrative one.
very easy for someone to throw up a Web site and offer to buy phones," said
Newman. "If the company doesn't have a phone number and address, that's a good
sign that you might want to look elsewhere." //
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