Mobile phone recycling, the corporate way

One of the service providers that offers telecommunications expense management for mobile phones -- to make sure you don't blow your budget if you travel out of country, for example -- has added a service for helping businesses get rid of outdated or worn-out mobile phones more responsibly.The offering, called Mobile Renew, works by alerting companies when equipment is reaching a point at which it might be out of date.

One of the service providers that offers telecommunications expense management for mobile phones -- to make sure you don't blow your budget if you travel out of country, for example -- has added a service for helping businesses get rid of outdated or worn-out mobile phones more responsibly.

The offering, called Mobile Renew, works by alerting companies when equipment is reaching a point at which it might be out of date. This is important, according to the service provider Tangoe, because when a mobile device is between 12 month and 15 months old, there is still money to be made on turning it in. Beyond that, however, a company is less likely to derive any value.

The screen below shows the Mobile Renew dashboard for tracking assets:

Robert Whitmore, vice president of professional services for Tangoe, says the service is being offered as an extension to existing clients. Companies turn to Tangoe primarily to help manage the carrier contracts behind their mobile phones. For example, if one of your U.S. employees travels into Canada, Tangoe will help switch the person to a new plan so that he or she isn't whacked with a whole bunch of ridiculous roaming charges. Mobile Renew doesn't actually cost anything. Rather, Tangoe seeks to help companies squeeze some sort of financial value out of phones that are being upgraded or that were never distributed in the first place.

The company's CEO, Al Subbloie, explains in the Mobile Renew press release:

"As a leader in mobile device and expense management solutions, Tangoe enables clients to quickly bring these devices online within their organizations. However this can also create a situation where large numbers of replaced devices are being discarded or forgotten, ending up in desk drawers or worse, in landfills within our communities."

Right now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figures that only 10 percent of mobile phones ditched annually in the United States are recycled. The rest end up in landfills or they wind up sitting in drawers.

The Mobile Renew program has been in beta test for the past few months with Tangoe customers, and Whitmore says that's when the most active generally occurs: when a business really tries to get a handle on what mobile phones it has and where they are stashed. When a company turns a phone in, it will receive a preset price for the asset, if it still has any value. Tangoe will alert users when they are eligible for an upgrade, which can also help inspire the reuse of phones at an early stage of the lifecycle, he says.

"The best value we can offer for the environment is to help prevent the creation of a new cell phone in the first place," Whitmore says.

If something is too old to be used, Tangoe has committed to disposing of it responsibly.

The company also is negotiating with a number of office retailers to help establish mobile phone drop boxes at retail locations. Phones collected in this manner will be donated to the company's charity of choice, Whitmore says.

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