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Why Your Customers Favor Recycling

My computer will be two years old in September. I believe that's a good age for an upgrade, so I began thinking of recycling options. Here's what I found out.

This process began just after I dove into the subject of recycling in my supply chain blog last week and concluded that it's time for manufacturers to start taking responsibility for recycling electronic devices that contain toxic materials.

My first step was to visit Apple's recycling website, where I found useful information about the environmentally friendly disposal of devices. I think it represents a good example of the kind of program I was suggesting in my blog.

Apple recycles products of any manufacturer. This is convenient for enterprises with computers, tablets, and smartphones from different manufacturers. When the CIO is planning on upgrading the company's electronics, a parallel recycling program could be implemented as an ideal plan.

Through another program, iPods can be recycled at an Apple store, generating a discount of 10 percent off a new one. Apple sends a prepaid package to make recycling less troublesome; I plan to send several dinosaur phones I have found during my spring cleaning.

As if contributing with a cleaner environment were not enough, desktops and laptops can qualify to be reused. PowerOn, a recycling company contracted by Apple, will evaluate the product and will estimate the fair market value of it. If you agree on the estimated value, you ship the product using the prepaid packaging.

After a couple of weeks, you receive an Apple gift card for the agreed amount. The card can be used to buy a new product online or off. Following this link you can check the estimated market value of the devices you plan to recycle. If they don't have any monetary value in the market, Apple will still recycle them at no cost.

Energy efficiency
Many electronic products today are designed for energy efficiency. This means that when you use such a device, you are also saving energy. Apple, for example, implemented its environmental policy back in 1990. One of its most ambitious goals is to supply all its power from renewable sources. All Apple's datacenters providing customer services, except for facilities in Austin, Cork, Munich, and Cupertino, are already running on renewable sources.

This gets back to my earlier blog about the incentives for manufacturers to adopt green policies. For customers, it's nice to find out that the devices you use daily have environmental benefits. It's also a source of inspiration and a good example to follow.

35 comments on “Why Your Customers Favor Recycling

  1. Lavender
    June 4, 2013

    Susan, I really feel very excited to hearing the recycling news in Apple, for I am also an environmentalist. Do you mean any brand smartphones including (Huawei, Samsung) are available to be recycled by Apple?

    Then the recycling is for what? Whether the newest iphone uses the recycled components?

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 4, 2013

    This is a very smart strategy from Apple.

    By offering to take any make product for recycling, Apple is luring the customers of other brands into its fold -as the repayment comes in the form of a gift card to buy Apple product.

    This is a very profitable way of adopting the green strategy.

    A win-win-win situation for Apple-the consumers-the environmnet!

  3. Tom Murphy
    June 4, 2013

    To me, the most intriguing part of Susan's post is the notion that Apple has recognized that recycling gives its products an added point of differentiation in a market where too much looks the same.  Clearly, others have caught onto this and found profits in pursuing it.  HP, for example, provides shipping containers with some printer cartridges to return and recycle old cartridges, which are expensive to produce.  Almost every computer I've purchases in the last decade is energy-star compliant, and Windows has power-saving options that I user regularly. My Samsung phone does, too. 

    Are we doing enough? No. Factory waste, fume-belching ships, and the utter failure to reclaim used products — as Susan outlined in her earlier post — point to the potential to do much more.  We can, and we should. 

    In California, I pay an extra couple of bucks when I buy a tire to recycle the one I'm leaving behind. Those tires now get turned into roadways, playground pads, even building materials.  So I don't really mind the fee that I pay once in 40,000 miles or so. Shouldn't we do the same with computer monitors and laptops?

  4. t.alex
    June 4, 2013

    I think there is a whole lot of process behind the recycling program. On the surface it is in fact a good sales strategy as well. As Apple gives a gift card, not actual cash, you can only buy new Apple products with this gift card. 

  5. _hm
    June 4, 2013

    @Susan: Many corporate organizations are very responsible and they have margin to achieve this goal.

    However, customer too need to share this onus. For example, can I urge, if possible for you, to extend your upgrade to three years in place of two years, as you have planned? Apple products are quite smart to fulfil most your needs.

    I will be happy if you too commit to green movement. I and my family will also do our part.

  6. Ariella
    June 5, 2013

    @Susan I've seen a number of articles that say most customers prefer to give their business to companies with green policies,http://formzapper.com/2012/11/consumers-prefer-buying-from-green-companies/

  7. William K.
    June 5, 2013

    Lilly, I don't think that any of the product components go into new products, but that at best some of the more valuable materials get recycled. I did have one agent explain to me a while back that the reason they gave a credit for the olde product was to make certain that nobody else would be using it, so that they could sell new ones instead.

    Really, there is an ethical flaw in designing products to just barely outlive the intended six month obsolescence target. Why should I be required to replace a computer that continues to meet all of my requirements just because the newer one has some feature desired by those who waste time playing video games? Any serious computer represents enough investment that it should not just be discarded to follow the latest fad. That usually winds up adding to the expensive materials destined for landfills, which is just plain wrong. I am aware that it is what drives an industry, making a few investers richer, but that des not make it right.

  8. Tom Murphy
    June 5, 2013

    Susan's article inspired this week's poll on EBN. Please be sure to vote on whether you think electronics manufacturers are doing enough to recycle their products. You'll find it on the right side of the page or by clicking here:

    http://www.ebnonline.com/document.asp?doc_id=264222

  9. Lavender
    June 5, 2013

    Then how will Apple make use of the recycled phones and components, or just as t.alex said to gain a reputation and make customers to buy Apple product with the certain shopping cart. 

  10. William K.
    June 5, 2013

    Probably subcontractors will pull out the various parts that have higher recycling value, such as gold connections and such. All of the metal will be recovered and recycled and also the plastic and the battery. But the recycling will be for materials not parts.

  11. FLYINGSCOT
    June 6, 2013

    I was interested to hear you thought 2 years was a good lifetime for your laptop.  I wonder how often most people change their laptops as it must be expensive changing every other year.

  12. Marianne
    June 6, 2013

    I see almost everywhere asking customers to return used products for recycling. I often wonder what they would be doing with recycling.  If not recycling into the products they sell, what about recycling into other types of products they can sell to customers and suppliers. I mentioned re-invention as one type of recycling in another blog. What about new products out of recycling? Say I return my laser cartridge for recycling, I see products that say they have been reproduced for the recycled parts of the original cartridge. What about other products for new uses other than cartridge. This would help an enterprise to sell for profits while saving money by recycling into cartridges.

     

     

  13. Susan Fourtané
    June 7, 2013

    Lily, 

    Yes, Apple recycles any brand of smartphones, and computers. 

    -Susan 

  14. Susan Fourtané
    June 7, 2013

    Prabhakar, 

    “Apple is luring the customers of other brands into its fold -as the repayment comes in the form of a gift card to buy Apple product.”

    Well, I don't see anything bad about Apple giving a gift card to buy products at the Apple Store. Other manufacturers do just the same. It's quite logical, don't you think? It's also practical. 

    If, for example, you have a non-Apple product, send it to Apple for recycling, and get your gift card for the Apple Store, but you don't want to buy an Apple product you can always exhcange the gift card for cash with someone you know who wants to buy an Apple product. It's easy, and no one loses anything. 🙂 You see? 

    -Susan

  15. Susan Fourtané
    June 7, 2013

    Tom, 

    “Are we doing enough? No. Factory waste, fume-belching ships, and the utter failure to reclaim used products — as Susan outlined in her earlier post — point to the potential to do much more.  We can, and we should.”

    Exactly! We all can, and all should do more. This concers the whole supply chain, and consumers of electronics devices.

    A simple and easy step is to start cleaning our drawers where we collect all the electronics waste. It can be an entertaining activity for a summer day, remembering about those little old phones that seemed to be so advanced at the time. What do we think of them now?  

    It's fascinating to think about how much phones, for instance, have changed, and we rarely think of it that much. 

    -Susan 

  16. Susan Fourtané
    June 7, 2013

    t.alex, 

    “As Apple gives a gift card, not actual cash, you can only buy new Apple products with this gift card.”

    No, it's not a sales startegy. I think it's fair. They recycle your products for free after all. This is not exclusive to Apple. Other manufacturers with recycling programs do exactly the same; they give you credit to buy their own products with it. What's wrong with that?

    -Susan

  17. Susan Fourtané
    June 7, 2013

    t.alex, 

    If, for example, you have a non-Apple product, send it to Apple for recycling, and get your gift card for the Apple Store, but you don't want to buy an Apple product you can always exhcange the gift card for cash with someone you know who wants to buy an Apple product. 

    -Susan

  18. HarrisBo
    June 7, 2013

    Buying recycled/refurbished computers makes sense and saves dollars. I found a great deal at bcdelectrostore. Check em out.

  19. Mr. Roques
    June 7, 2013

    How's the recycling being done? Are they simply receiving old equipment? – paying for it / charging for it / free ? 

    There should be some sort of regulation on the minimum percentage of the total equipment that can be recycled. Companies want people to throw out everything and buy new stuff, in order to stay in business.

  20. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2013

    Marianne, 

    That's what they do all the time- 

    -Susan

  21. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2013

    Mr.R., 

    No, it's not that simple. No one is asking you to throw away anything if you don't decide to upgrade your equipment, or your devices just brake down. Instead of keeping them pilling at home or in the office, send them for recycling. 

    Sadly, I see people don't know much about the recycling process, or how it really works, or why should they recycle. 

    -Susan

  22. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2013

    Thanks, Tom. Unfortunately, the chat was a bit too late for me. 

    -Susan

  23. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2013

    Ariella, 

    Thanks for the link. 🙂 

    “Of the consumers interviewed, 2/3 recognize the need to purchase products that are good for the environment and society.”

    Yes, it makes quite a lot of sense. I wonder if this may be part of the reason of the falling of RIM as this is the less green company –at the end of the list–, according to Greenpeace. 

    -Susan 

     

  24. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2013

    _hm, 

    Honestly, I find it quite unfair that you suggest I am not commited to the green movement having no grounds for what you say. It feels like an accusation that I am not willing to take.

    “For example, can I urge, if possible for you, to extend your upgrade to three years in place of two years, as you have planned? Apple products are quite smart to fulfil most your needs.” 

    Apple products are smart to fullfil my needs, but they are also expensive, and any person committed with the environment would also watch their wallet. It took me a long time to be able to finally buy the computer I always wanted. It was an investment for me. It has served me well for the past two years, and it has never given me a problem of any kind, yes. But if I recycle it when I planned I keep 50 percent of my investment, and buying the new one wouldn't represent a big effort as it was to buy this one.  

    If I wait I will have to pay much more, or the total price again for a new laptop. Would you seriously do that? I support and do quite a lot for a green planet already, including paying green electricity, which is already more expensive. And do other things.  

    I bought my previous laptop in 2006. I kept it for five years. Before that, the laptop I had gave me more problems than what you can think of before its motherboard died before the computer was two years old. It was more expensive to change the motherboard than to buy a new one. Plus I had to send it to France for that and pay the shipment and back, plus the service that is. I had also had to change the hard drive a little after the guarantee had expired.

    With this I mean to say that I am not a person who changes laptop every year for no reason. I have my reasons for what I am doing now. The first being that I want to keep part of my investment, instead of waiting until the product it worth $0,00, which will happen if I wait as you want me to do. At this moment I can't afford that luxury.

    I have an iPhone 3S that a friend of mine recycled by giving it to me when he got his iPhone 5 this year in April. As you see, he also kept his phone for some years without upgrading every time a new one was out. 

    So my green commitment has to be according to my possibilities, just like everyone else's. You don't just go asking people to do something without knowing if that is even possible, or their reasons behind for doing what they do. We need to be thoughtful, too. The fact that I could finally bought a Mac doesn't mean I am swimming in a pool of dollars or euros either. This has been a misconception that apparently has not changed.  

    If I recycle now Apple gives me a gift card for $628. That means I would only have to pay $571 for either one of the laptops I want, instead of $1,200. Do you think I am really willing to wait until I can get $0,00? What would you do? 

    Following the link you can check the market price for recycling any product:

     http://store.apple.com/us/browse/reuse_and_recycle 

    I am still on the green side. My laptop is in good condition, which means Apple can condition it for selling it as a used product at a lower price. This is the part of recycling what people don't understand. I am not throwing away my laptop. I am giving it back to be conditioned, and re-used by someone else. This is the best option for recycling products, when they don't go to eWaste. Can you see this? 

    The more I think about your suggestion the less sense it make to me. If I want to make my recycling even easier and faster, with a benefit for everyone including the environment, I can just post a local announcement, and sell my laptop for the price Apple would give me to anyone else who is the market for a product like the one I have.

    The person gets what he wants for half the price, I get my new laptop for half the price, and there is the sale of only one product sold to cover the needs of two people. No product discarded, no environment polluted. Do you see that I am not wrong in what I am doing?

    On the contrary. It's the best recycling option, the one everyone wins. 

    -Susan

  25. _hm
    June 8, 2013

    @Susan: After reading your detailed note, I concur with you. Thanks for elobration.

  26. Ariella
    June 8, 2013

    @Susan You're most welcome. It would be interesting to ascertain how much impact that rating had on RIM. 

  27. Susan Fourtané
    June 9, 2013

    Flyingscot, 

    “I was interested to hear you thought 2 years was a good lifetime for your laptop.”

    Indeed, it is a good lifetime for a laptop if you want to keep some of your investment, and choose a real sustainable recycling option. You can read why in a comment below I wrote to _hm, who was wondering about the same. 

    “I wonder how often most people change their laptops as it must be expensive changing every other year.”

    Not really. That is a misconception. On the contrary. If you sell your laptop when it still has market value you recover part of your investment that can use to buy a new one. The other person doesn't need to buy a new product. This especially attarctive to students.

    Selling your old laptop to someone else saves your laptop from ending up being eWaste. 

    -Susan

  28. Susan Fourtané
    June 9, 2013

    You are welcome, _hm. I hope it was useful to show how we can avoid eWaste while keeping some market value of our devices.

    -Susan 

  29. Susan Fourtané
    June 9, 2013

    Ariella, 

     It would be interesting to ascertain how much impact that rating had on RIM.”

    Indeed, it would. I also wonder to what extent people know about the fact that RIM is the less environmentally friendly electronics company in the market. I don't think RIM advertises much about it, does it? 😀 

    -Susan  

     

  30. t.alex
    June 10, 2013

    Susan, there is nothing wrong with that. It is the right strategy to encourage users to recycle and buy new products. 

  31. SunitaT
    June 21, 2013

    iPods can be recycled at an Apple store, generating a discount of 10 percent off a new one.

    @Susan, thanks for the post. Such incentives definitely encourages customer to participate actively in recycling program. I really hope other companies should also start such programs so that it gives the end users a medium to dispose their old electronic items.

  32. Clairvoyant
    June 21, 2013

    This is a great idea, to get a discount on returning old products for recycling. However, a company offering a discount such as this would need to be able to handle the extra cost of offering the discount and handling the recycled items.

  33. itguyphil
    June 21, 2013

    Yes. It's like the bottle returns. You get the incentive to recycle but you pay a little more upfront for it. Do you think technologists favor this additional cost?

  34. Clairvoyant
    June 22, 2013

    Do you think technologists favor this additional cost?”

    I would hope that they do!

  35. itguyphil
    June 22, 2013

    I would hope so too but it's al realtive. Think about the times you've gone to the store to buy some new gadget and the salesperson tries to upsell you on a 1 or 2 yr service plan/warranty. Most people turn it down because it's an extra $10-$50 on top of your purchase.

    So now imagine if you're buying a brand new tower computer ($300-$800 retail nowadays on average), does an additional $50 for recycling break the bank?

    I'm not sure too many people would see the immediate value or benefit.

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