Corporate Mobile Recycling Programs: Why it Matters More and How to Do it Best 

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In celebration of Earth Day, I wanted to shine a spotlight on the growing electronic waste problem and the importance of mobile device recycling. Like other electronics, mobile devices and cell phones contain toxic chemicals, including lead, nickel, mercury, and chromium which can pollute the environment when tossed into the trash or landfill. Technology innovations are helping to lengthen the lifespan of mobile devices, but end-of-life electronics still contribute to a global e-waste problem: 

  • Billions of phones are being disposed of every year: The number of mobile devices operating worldwide is roughly 15 billion (and rising), meanwhile the lifespan of a cell phone is just 2.6 years.  
  • The U.S. is among the biggest offenders: The U.S. is the second highest e-waste contributor, behind China. 
  • Recycling not only prevents pollution, but it also recovers precious metals: According to the EPA, for every 1 million cell phones recycled, we can save 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium.  

All of this adds context for why proper device disposal and recycling programs are growing more critical every year for businesses sponsoring mass use. But how can company leaders manage mobile devices effectively through the final stages of their life, paying particular attention to the need for environmental responsibility? 

Tangoe acts as the administrator for 14 million devices globally (more than any of our competitors). As part of our mobile device management services, we handle end-of-life logistics for our clients, which encompasses the wiping, disposal, and recycling of their decommissioned endpoints like mobile phones but also tablets, scanners, and other IoT devices. 

Here’s a few of our tips.   

Managing End-of-Life Electronics and Corporate Recycling Programs 

As companies show an increased awareness of the e-waste generated by their business practices, they are developing mobile recycling programs and partnerships to reduce their environmental impact. But like any program, results can vary widely. Developing a quality recycling program starts with understanding the three steps for managing devices at the end of their lifecycle:  

  1. Repair or Replace: Make repairs or replace them entirely to eliminate downtime when devices are obsolete or irreparable. 
  1. Decommission: Reset enterprise devices and remove confidential corporate and personal data. 
  1. Reassign or Recycle: Re-deploy assets or properly dispose of devices through retirement workflows 

Several characteristics are the hallmark of a quality mobile device recycling program: 

  • Accessibility: All devices are accepted for recycling — regardless of their age or condition. 
  • Certified Partners: Programs should be established with recycling/repair partners certified by the service provider or manufacturer. Many partners also hold ISO 14001 certification. These merits ensure the partner knows how to securely wipe devices clean and repair or recycle devices according to the R2 industry-leading standards. Additionally, the quality of any repair can also be certified, as these organizations are versed in how to maintain various types of devices.  
  • Compliance: Many federal laws regulate how devices and batteries are recycled. Providers, manufacturers and their certified recycling partners comply with these laws, giving confidence that devices are properly and safely recycled – even when they are exported for refurbishment or recycling. Compliance also requires documentation, which allows the recycling provider to track and report on environmental impact data. 
  • Wiping Devices Clean: There are hundreds of types of personal user information and private corporate data stored on devices, including contacts, call history, e-mails, text messages, pictures, cookies and history, videos, and tasks. All must be removed, and certified partners are versed in doing this thoroughly but also efficiently. 

Committing to environmental sustainability is easy when you build mobility strategies focused on managing all stages of the device lifecycle, excellence in recycling, and recovering business value. Tangoe’s mobile device recycling services include some of the following approaches: 

  • Certified recycling partners and NIST certified data-wiping processes 
  • Our facilities are R2 certified and zero-waste-to-landfill certified, which means we use environmentally friendly methods to reduce the amount of waste in landfills 
  • Tracked environmental impact data, which is available quarterly to clients 
  • Real-time market pricing intelligence used to estimate the value of recovered devices and replace retired ones 
  • Insurance against mobile data leaks  

Learn more about Mobility Management Services from Tangoe