Ethan Arpi

Got An Old Cell Phone? Don’t Throw It Out

recellular“The fact that you can combine a business–a profitable business–with a useful service and a charitable good is a win, win, win,” Mike Newman told the USA Today.? You see, Mr. Newman is Vice President of Recellular, a triple bottom line company that collects used cell phones, refurbishes them, and then exports them to developing nations, ?where land lines can be costly or unavailable.?? According to USA Today, ?The odds are good that a refurbished cellphone in the pocket of a user in Bolivia, Jamaica, Kenya, Ukraine or Yemen originated with ReCellular.?? That’s because on an average week Recellular gets about 75,000 used phones, mostly from charities, which it then spruces up and sends overseas.? ?Refurbished cellphones,? USA Today reports, ?are opening doors to wireless communication in much of the developing world, where a new cellphone might be prohibitively expensive??

Keeping Up With the Jones?

Part of the reason why these recycling programs are so successful stems from a major problem in the United States: over consumption.? According to Mr. Newman, Americans exchange their perfectly functional cell phones for sleeker models every 18 months.? From what I can tell, cell phone manufacturers and service providers deserve some of the blame.? A friend of mine, for example, recently received a new cell phone in the mail along with a note telling him to return his old, perfectly good phone.? As it turned out, his mom’s phone was broken, so every member on the family plan was sent a new phone.? Although these types of programs keep us abreast of the latest gizmos and gadgets, they are exceptionally wasteful and contribute to the problem of e-waste, or the pollution of toxic materials from electronic equipment.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Remember those three R?s?? Well in this case reducing the use of cell phones might actually be a bad thing because it would make cheap, reused phones less available in the developing world.? Then again, cell phone manufacturers are already making cheap phones that they market directly to low-income consumers.? But regardless, we should applaud Recellular for taking the initiative and converting our e-waste into something that actually helps the base of the economic pyramid.? “We squeeze out as much value as possible,” Newman told USA Today.? ?Work crews separate the phones from the “spaghetti” of non-reusable wires and cords that are set aside for recycling?About 60% of the phones that come in are reusable. The rest are used for parts or sold as scrap.?

From Trash to Cash
So far, Recellular has found that its recycling service is bringing home the bacon.? Last year, revenue reached about $40 million, and this year, Mr. Newman expects to see a 67% jump.? Not bad for a business that makes a profit by sorting though peoples’ trash.? I guess that’s why they say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

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World Resources Institute