Fighting e-waste one mobile phone at a time

ReCellular handles thousands of unwanted handsets every day, fixing them up for resale or sending them to be melted down and recycled

Do you do the recycling at your Michigan headquarters or do you send the phones elsewhere for that?

Our specialty is reuse and collection. We receive between 20,000 and 25,000 phones every day, and we sort them into two major categories: the reusable products and the products that are obsolete. The obsolete handsets go to a recycling plant in Chicago, while the reusable phones go through testing and have personal content removed before they are resold as used handsets.

25,000 handsets every day is a lot. How do you process them?

We have more than 400 employees here that use an automated processing system to test which phones are still usable and which ones aren't. It's definitely an improvement from when I started working here five years ago when we literally just had a big table where phones would get dumped on and sorted manually.

What is your primary target market for selling used phones?

There is a surprisingly large market for used phones domestically. A lot of consumers don't want to sign two-year contracts with carriers and this is a great alternative to having to pay hundreds of dollars for new phones. We also have significant markets around the world, including Asia and Latin America.

Can you talk a bit about the program you've developed to help enterprise users safely dispose of their mobile devices?

A lot of companies have started to wake up to the potential impact of what could happen when their employees are done using their BlackBerries and they have company-sensitive information on them. We've designed solutions to help make sure they aren't at risk from a data security standpoint. We will work with companies to get phones out of employees' hands and into safe recycling centers. Companies have traditionally not done much to collect phones when employees are done with them, so we'll customize our solutions to make sure they are collecting them up and to make sure that when they are done using them that all sensitive data is destroyed.

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Brad Reed

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