How To Create a Recycling Plan For Wireless Gadgets


Help your customers dispose of their old wireless devices in a responsible manner. Irion, founder and CEO of e-Cycle, offers advice on how IT solution providers can create a mobile device buyback program for their customers that is rewarding both environmentally, and for their wallets. -- Jennifer Bosavage

Wireless technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, have become essential tools for leading enterprises. But what happens to these invaluable tools when it’s time for new technology? Often, a startling transformation occurs: in just one day, a device which was once so critical is simply cast aside as “obsolete” and “worthless.” As an IT solution provider, implementing a responsible mobile buyback and recycling program can be one of the easiest and most rewarding IT cost-cutting solutions you can offer your clients.

More than 150 million mobile phones are retired in the U.S. each year, but less than 20 percent are reused or recycled. Pollutants from electronic devices now represent 70 percent of the toxins in our landfills. In fact, one mobile phone in a landfill can contaminate up to 40,000 gallons of water.

However, more than 50 percent of mobile devices still retain a significant resale value, even after 18 to 24 months of use, and can be reused in secondary markets where the technologies are valued and needed. Every organization should have an asset recovery plan in place to recoup this revenue to help offset the cost of supplying their workforce with the latest technologies.

But what is a “responsible” mobile buyback and recycling program for electronic gadgets? It is a program that ensures you maximize the return on your customer’s wireless investments while protecting their sensitive corporate data. It uses wireless recycling partners that are e-Stewards Certified and continually audited to ensure proper data security, hazardous e-waste disposal and worker protection through the entire downstream recycling chain to final disposition. With these safeguards in place, you can help your clients advance their sustainability initiatives while protecting their private data and their bottom lines.

Here are some tips for maintaining a sustainable, secure and profitable mobile phone reuse and recycling program

1. Work with e-Stewards, such as certified mobile buyback and recycling companies. Our company was calling on an extremely large U.S. financial institution whose representative said that they already had a buyback and recycling solution in place through an “approved vendor.” Having never heard of the vendor, we decided to research the company.

After further investigation, we discovered that the vendor was actually a residential address using an unsecure, open garage to collect and refurbish mobile devices to sell on eBay. Toxic batteries and parts were being stored, discarded and shipped in unlawful and unethical manners. Needless to say, the institution immediately ceased all business activities with the vendor.

Before choosing a mobile buyback or asset recovery partner, make certain that they are e-Stewards Certified. Be wary of any recycling vendor that is vague about their recycling process and downstream partners. You should expect complete transparency and documentation of all business practices.

2. Mobile data security isn’t just restoring the factory settings.There are several mobile buyback and recycling Web sites, especially those with consumer-driven divisions, claiming “complete data deletion.” However, if you take the time to read the fine print in their terms and conditions, most will state that they take no responsibility for deleting the private data.

But there is much more to data security than simply restoring the factory settings on a device. When choosing a recycling partner, you need to examine their device-specific deletion methods, quality assurance testing practices, third-party verification audits, facility security, hiring policies, liability insurance coverage, and other procedures.

3. Do not trust your employees or third-party software with data deletion. It is a great advantage if your client has the resources to invest in remote data wiping solutions. However, even after resetting a device to factory settings, there are still applications and hidden menus that may still contain data, including owner contact information, passwords and pin numbers. Human error happens. Be certain your mobile buyback company has rigorous processes in place to permanently remove the data on every device as well as secondary quality assurance testing.

4. Make certain carrier services are canceled prior to reselling or recycling devices. Accidentally retiring devices that still have active service plans is a serious security risk due to continued data transmissions. It also often results substantial financial losses due to unnecessary carrier service charges. In the case of one of our large financial clients, it resulted in a loss of tens of thousands of dollars per year. Be sure your chosen wireless recycling company includes active phone line testing as part of their services and that they provide a complete list of devices (with phone numbers) that are found active.

5. A “destroy only” policy is bad for the environment and your budget.

Corporate-liable devices that are not properly retired—stored in closets and desk drawers, directly donated to charities, trade-in programs or simply given to the employees—may expose confidential data. In an effort to battle security threats, some companies develop a mobile ‘destroy-only’ policy.

This physical destruction of reusable devices results in lost revenues, additional disposal expenses, energy waste and increased greenhouse gas emissions. It also denies bootstrapping entrepreneurs throughout the world the opportunity to reuse these technologies to build their businesses. Secure wireless reuse is great business.

6. Use mobile buyback as part of your corporate caring plan. Mobile asset recovery offers a viable alternative to traditional charitable donations and sponsorships. Your clients can choose to use a portion or all of their revenues as a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

For example, one of our large financial clients contributed more than $44,000 to a local hospital this year by donating a portion of their buyback proceeds. Additionally, a leading non-profit hospital raised more than $40,000 for two charities, including a local food bank. Half of the revenues from their mobile devices provided more than 60,000 meals for hungry families this year alone, and without impacting their budget.

7. Measure the environmental impact and celebrate your success.
Have your wireless recycling partner provide you with annual environmental impact statements that measure the positive impact of your reuse and recycling programs. Report and celebrate the success with your clients.