I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Social Innovation: Recycling Your Mobile Phone
If you get an unwanted handset for Christmas you may find mobile recycling is your answer: a social innovation solution. Over 130 million cell phones are replaced every year in the U.S., yet only ten per cent of those are recycled. As consumers upgrade, these wireless devices are tossed aside and the valuable piece of electronics and engineering justs wastes away. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates over a billion replaced mobile devices have accumulated in households across the U.S.; most probably end up in landfills rather than being reused or recycled.
All mobiles have an economic value, whether they're resold or broken down for minerals and plastic granulation. If recycling is to live up to its promise as one of the growth social innovation industries in green, e-waste recycling should become one of the most lucrative sectors. We're up to our necks in electronics, a lot of the raw materials are growing in value, and government regulators are devising policies to ensure they don't end up in dumps. In fact, China's threat to curb rare earth minerals in last year prompted Mitsubishi and Toshiba amongst other brands to investigate techniques to harvest uranium from old appliances.
One social innovation company that recognises the value of recycling these handsets is eRecyclingCorps; a U.S. based organisation. It offers incentives in exchange and or trades to help create a global market to support the reuse of mobile phones. eRecyclingCorps believes that by transforming the mobile device ecosystem into an opportunity for reward, renewal and reuse, it is not only benefiting the environment, but creating an economic opportunity that rewards everyone who participates.
How eRecyclingCorps operates its social innovation recycling scheme is that it wipes off all of the data from the old phone, refurbishes it and then sells it to a carrier in an emerging market like India or Mexico. In India, mobile customers on average only spend $7 a month for service and so cheap, refurbished phones are in high demand. The average U.S. consumer keeps a phone for 18 months while the 44 percent that are smart phone customers replace theirs every 10 months. In India, customers often keep their phones for six years. Since 2009, eRecyclingCorps has taken in over 2.5 million phones and is doing well. It can be found at 1,000 Sprint PCS-owned stores; 2,000 dealer-owned Sprint outlets, 530 Verizon stores and several independents. It seems that trash is attractive and lucrative; so don't discard your old mobile to the back of the cupboard: recycle it and give it another life.