E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the country. That’s according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Why? There are a few reasons. More people are purchasing electronic devices. Customers are upgrading them more frequently. And collection rates for reuse and recycling are notoriously low. Collectively, this translates to more e-waste. And if some electronics aren’t properly discarded, it not only wastes valuable resources; it can pose problems to health and the environment.
The employees of Sprint are looking at the issue by taking a page from the circular economy
and focusing on three key areas:
Designing and buying more sustainable electronics
- Designing and buying more sustainable electronics
- Increasing the collection of electronics for reuse and recycling
- Using environmentally and socially responsible vendors
We start with the area that we can control the most. We work with manufacturers to develop more environmentally sustainable products. This is one of the greatest opportunities to make a difference. Our environmental criteria are based on reducing substances of concern — things like polyvinyl chlorides, brominated flame retardants, phthalates and beryllium. We’re also designing devices that can be more easily repaired and recycled. In 2015, 85 percent of new devices launched met our environmental specifications.
Increasing the collection of electronics for reuse and recycling
In 2015, we collected 6.6 million used mobile devices from customers. The Sprint Buyback program made up 40 percent of those collections (2.6 million devices). The program has been so successful, it was named best phone buyback program
among all U.S. carriers for four consecutive years by Compass Intelligence.
And while the environmental and health benefits are obvious, the program also yields shareholder value. Total collections of consumer devices helped save $1 billion in costs. Most of these devices are remanufactured and used in place of new ones at a fraction of the cost. They support our service and repair operations, insurance program, and customers who want to save money by purchasing certified pre-owned phones
We also collected 3,446 metric tons of used electronics from Sprint facilities in 2015. While this includes servers from our data centers and laptops from employees, the vast majority was generated by our efforts to consolidate multiple network technologies into one new, seamless network for Sprint.
Using environmentally and socially responsible vendors
Sprint is the first wireless carrier to participate in the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge
This program challenges major manufacturers and retailers of electronics to send 100 percent of the e-waste they collect to third-party certified recyclers, increase e-waste collections, and publish data on recovery and disposal. In 2015, 99 percent of the e-waste Sprint collected was sent to aggregators, recyclers and remanufacturers with third-party certification (e.g., R2, R2-RIOS, e-Stewards).