Sprint: Give us your tired mobile phones, we'll recycle them

Sprint expands buyback program for mobile phones, offering credit even for competitors' devices.

The other day, I reported on a new United Nations study that (among many, many other things) suggested mobile phones were one of the biggest culprits when it came to electronic waste, more affectionately known as e-waste. Come on, be honest, how easy is it just to toss that old one into the trash. Or into a drawer where it sounds around feeling all disconnected and stuff.

Anyway, a number of companies have been testifying this week in Washington about the topic of energy efficiency and the influence/impact/responsibility of what our lawmakers like to call the information and communication technology (ICT) industry. One of the companies asked to talk was Sprint Nextel.

The carrier's CEO, Dan Hesse, used his time on the spot and in the spotlight to launch an expanded buyback program to help boost U.S. wireless recycling rates. The new Sprint program will offer a point of sale credit to both new and current Spring customers who turn in up to three "eligible wireless devices." Your credit will be between $5 and $300 depending on what you hand in. A BlackBerry 9700 Bold will get you $161.05, for example. Oh (attention rival carriers), and it doesn't have to be a Sprint device.

Sprint has pledged to recover and recycle up to 90 percent of the handsets it sells by 2017.

ABI Research recently published some data on the e-waste recycling issue. It found that most people are prepared to surrender their old phone when they get a new one, but they want something in return such as a tax or charitable deduction or a credit like this one.

Sprint says it will donate any mobile devices that aren't eligible for its buyback program to Sprint Project Connect, which is a free recycling service for phones, batteries, data cards and other mobile accessories. The proceeds from that program go to promoting Internet safety resources for children, parents and educators.

Sprint figures it has diverted about 19 million phones from landfills since 2001.

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