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Sprint has made quite a call: It thinks that by 2017 it can get consumers to recycle 90% of the cell phones they discard annually. Right now, the industry rate is about 10%.

Kevin Ferguson

February 13, 2009

2 Min Read

Sprint has made quite a call: It thinks that by 2017 it can get consumers to recycle 90% of the cell phones they discard annually. Right now, the industry rate is about 10%.I don't mean to discourage anyone from recycling electronics. Sprint should be commended for recycling. But a 90% rate seems to be disconnected from reality. Other service providers and manufacturers have been pushing cell phone recycling for a few years, but seldom do recycling rates rise above 10%.

Sprint does claim more success than others. In 2008, Sprint, it says, it collected more than 3 million units, equal to 34% of devices sold, an increase from 22% in 2007. Of the handsets that it collected in 2008, Sprint says more than 90% were reused. Sprint has two recycling programs: Sprint Buyback, which allows Sprint customers to recycle their Sprint or Nextel devices for account credits, and Sprint Project Connect, which accepts all wireless phones, batteries, accessories and data cards, regardless of carrier or condition. Net proceeds from Sprint Project Connect support Internet safety for kids through Sprint's 4NetSafety program. (Charitable partners include the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the NEA Health Information Network.) Three things are working against Sprint's goal of 90%. First, there are people like me: well-intentioned layabouts who would just as soon shove the old phone in the bottom drawer as print out a label and mail it in. Yes, I'm that lazy. Though, were I still in college, I'm sure I'd be doing it (it's got to be easier than selling blood plasma, anyway). For those of you who are more motivated, and I hope you are, the U.S. EPA has a Web site listing recycling drop-off locations. Second, there's the very good chance that I'd be switching carriers. That leaves me with the option of mailing it in for charitable purposes. Now, I am charitable. But, as we've discussed, I'm lazy. And for some reason, scrounging around my closet for donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters seems easier. I'm not sure why. Third, few states require consumers or manufacturers to recycle their phones. That will likely change, but how quickly?

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