In what could prove to be a huge boost to cell phone recycling, seven former phone company executives from Sprint and Radio Shack have launched a new firm to buy back used handsets from consumers, and refurbish and resell them, or recycle them.
Co-founders David Edmondson and Ron LeMay announced March 23 that they have formed eRecyclingCorps, based in Irvine, Texas, to work with phone carriers and establish buyback programs to address the growing problem of discarded cell phones. The announcement was made at the International CTIA Wireless Show in Las Vegas.
According to eRecyclingCorps, only 1 percent of the 4 billion wireless subscribers worldwide recycle their handsets, based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Additionally, more than 130 million wireless phones in the U.S. are replaced each year, creating an estimated 130 million pounds of waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA estimates that only 10 percent of the country's mobile-phone users recycle them.
eRecyclingCorps said its Web-based platform to facilitate cell-phone recycling integrates directly into the point-of-sale system at carrier retail stores, where 60 percent of all mobile phones in the U.S. are sold. For most other mobile-phone take-back programs, consumers must mail the phones back or take them to specified drop-off points.
The eRecycling Corps system is currently in place at Sprint's 1,100 company-owned stores, 1,400 preferred dealers and the company's online channels, according to eRecyclingCorps. Sprint has said previously that its goal is to achieve a wireless reuse and recycling rate of 90 percent, as a percent of its device sales, by 2017.
Consumers will get credit for the value of their used phone, and eRecyclingCorps will pay the phone carriers for the cell phones, then determine which ones to recycle and which to refurbish. The plan is to sell the refurbished phones in emerging markets.
Cell phones from any provider made since 2005 are eligible for credits that will range from $5-$300. Up to three phones can be traded at a single time, and credits can be applied toward the cost of a new phone, monthly service fees or phone accessories.
The unprecedented growth in the global wireless industry has transformed the way people live, work and play, eRecyclingCorps CEO Edmondson said in a news release.
But the unintended consequence of that growth is a mountain of toxic environmental e-waste. We are committed to transforming the wireless eco-system through comprehensive incentives, which address both our collective responsibility to the environment and provide an economically viable solution to the growing problem of e-waste he said.
Edmondson is former CEO of Radio Shack. eRecyclingCorps Chairman LeMay is the former president and chief operating officer of Sprint.
Founded in 2009, eRecyclingCorps has received funding from venture capital firm Openair Ventures LLC and Tap Advisors LLC of New York.
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