Environmentally responsible businesses will already be aware that from July almost all of their electrical equipment has to be disposed of in line with the government's new waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive.
But far fewer will have realised that rather than representing another regulatory headache, green disposal of certain electrical goods can also help raise money for either your company or its favourite charity.
Under a scheme operated by mobile phone disposal specialist Fonebak and supported by leading mobile manufacturers, operators and retailers such as Vodafone, Orange, O2, Dixons, PC World and Virgin, firms can dispose of their unwanted mobile phones and attachments through a WEEE-compliant channel and get cash in return.
Firms signing up to the scheme receive either free post bags to send unwanted mobiles to Fonebak's recycling facilities, or securely-sealed plastic boxes which they can fill with 40 to 50 phones ahead of collection.
According to Sarah Band of Fonebak the company then "sorts the phones, tests them, recycles the materials from those that don't work and refurbishes those that are working, and remarkets them in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa".
This approach not only provides affordable mobile phones to developing world economies, but also generates revenue from the sale of both refurbished phones and the components and precious metals harvested from recycled handsets. "Plastics in phones are melted down and used in saucepans, traffic cones and buckets," she explained. "While Gold, copper and the like is taken out and sold on commodity markets."
Band estimates that as a result firms can receive an average of £5 for each handset they dispose of through the scheme.
Under Vodafone's take back scheme, which is operated by Fonebak, corporate customers returning their mobiles for recycling will receive a form allowing them to donate the money raised from resale to the National Autistic Society through Vodafone's own scheme, give the money to a charity of their own choice, or have the extra cash paid back into their Vodafone account.
Kate Muncaster, Fonebak co-ordinator at Vodafone, said that most firms do indeed donate the money to charity, while public sector customers tend to get the money paid back to them as they are using public funds.
She added that the company already has 29 of its top 50 customers signed up to the scheme and is seeing growing interest in the initiative from its corporate accounts.
"There is a perceived value in mobile phones and an estimated 90 million handsets are in home or office landfill where people think I'll keep it in a drawer just in case," she said. "This scheme is about helping them realise there is a real value in those devices, either for charities or themselves, and then making it easy for them to release that value."
Of course, with each mobile phone battery estimated to contain enough cadmium to pollute 600,000 litres of water - that's enough to fill a third of an Olympic swimming pool – everybody should already be disposing of mobiles in an environmentally friendly fashion. But for those firms that have been a bit slack in their mobile recycling policies a financial incentive could be just what is required to help them get their house in order.
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