What do you do with your old electronics when you’re done? For most, they get stored in some back corner of your house, doing a great job gathering dust. Ecycling is a step beyond that, and has become part of the broader consciousness, with major office supply stores now collecting devices.
But ecycling comes with a big package of issues: Where does it get shipped to to have it done? Who does it? What conditions are the workplace where it’s done? Are workers getting poisoned as they do this work?
Despite assurances, in many cases what’s being promised is not what’s delivered when you do you think you’re doing your part in seeing that your old electronics get reused rather then disposed of.
How would you like to know for sure that your electronics are either benefiting those in need or benefiting your pocketbook by getting paid or reducing your costs? And we’re not talking only recent vintage, in demand gear either.
Hope Phones: Your phone, creating possibilities
The premise is simple, the impact great: Donate a phone, it leads to medical clinics in developing countries having a new phone. Donation is extremely simplified: remove the SIM card, send only the phone, not the charger. Wireless Source, Hope Phone’s partner, either refurbishes the phone and resells it, or recycles it, earning credit for Hope Phone to purchase the appropriate one for the country they are serving. Hope Phones makes a point to buy simple, basic phones, so an iPhone sent to them could result in 5-7 phones being purchased and delivered by them.
I am troubled that Wireless Source seems to give no details on where, who, and under what conditions refurbishing/recycling takes place. But, Hope Phones clearly having a humanitarian agenda, I’m inclined to think that they investigated this.
Powermax: Give me your weak, your infirm, your Mac G3s
Powermax, an Apple focused company in Portland, is a quirky, knowledgeable company not afraid to crack a joke while working. They’re also not afraid to take used Macs, as old as G3, crediting you and bringing them to consumer ready condition, with a warranty and the option to return or exchange for a different computer, postage paid, removing the concern over buying a used computer. And, bucking the trend of most computer sellers, they’re honest that newer does not necessarily mean substantially better. You’re not likely to find another computer seller that says:
“The computer industry understandably pushes the latest models because the manufacturers only really make money when you buy a new computer. But the truth is, there are plenty of happy G3, G4, G5 and older Intel-based Mac owners out there. We use hundreds of Macs in-house, and they’re all used (because of course the second you turn on any computer it becomes “used” in any case), and most of them are older models. There are times when buying a brand new Mac makes sense because you’re using cutting-edge software with large demands on the processor, or you’re just more comfortable with that, or it has a specific feature you need. But the improvements in speed as new models are introduced are only incremental.”
Having had an iBook G4 for more then 5 years and only now passing it on, still functional, to a local sustainable living institution, I can attest to the accuracy of this statement.
So, have a few Macs sitting around your home, your office? Perhaps it’s time to find a new home for them, here.
Readers: What other alternatives to ecycling have you seen out there? Is there a PC parallel to Powermax’s Mac focused used computer program?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. See here for more information on him.