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Smartphone recycling is good for the enterprise

As new mobile devices hit the market, consumers and companies discard old, but still usable, ones. Hyla Mobile touts the environmental and fiscal benefits of smartphone recycling.

Mobile devices aren't permanent.

A consumer buys one, uses it for a few years -- if he or she is lucky -- and then moves on to the next big thing. The same cycle occurs on a bigger scale in companies that buy devices for their employees. But many times, these discarded devices are still usable. At the very least, their parts are still valuable.

Hyla Mobile aims to give new life to old devices. The 7-year-old company runs the buyback and smartphone recycling programs for major wireless carriers and organizations such as Facebook, which relies on refurbished devices to spread the use of mobile technology in the developing world.

Here, Biju Nair, Hyla's president and CEO, discusses how mobility affects the environment and how smartphone recycling benefits the business world.

What does modern mobility mean to you?

Being … productive while being mobile, being able to respond much more quickly. It has tended to cut down on a lot of B.S. There were days when you could say something completely random without having full knowledge. These days, when you say something, immediately people pull out their smartphones and Google it.

How can businesses get the most out of their device purchases?

Take a company like Uber. They are signing up drivers every single day. They are making devices available to those drivers. They have to get the most cost-effective devices which suit their needs. They are a buyer … because they would like to take advantage of lightly used, highly functional, refurbished devices that they can pass on.

What are the environmental implications of the mobile boom?

Hyla, from its inception, has collected and repurposed roughly 42 million devices, and we have been able to successfully divert more than 17 million pounds of e-waste away from landfills. That constitutes avoiding about 121 million gallons of groundwater pollution.

People very quickly get bored with an environmental discussion if they cannot see the actual value associated with it.

People very quickly get bored with an environmental discussion if they cannot see the actual value associated with it. Companies out there have started urban mining. They take a device that is beyond economic repair and then recycle every aspect: plastic, precious metals, the battery. If somebody's spending $5 to $10, they are able to further downstream sell the precious metals, plastics and other components and probably extract another $20 or $30 worth of value out of it.

How can businesses make smartphone recycling and buyback programs part of their sustainability efforts?

We run programs for our carrier customers, not only on the consumer side of things but also on their B2B channels. Instead of individual employees going on a website or into a store, we enable corporations. We send a box, and they're able to collect devices and ship them. We tell them the value. Through our portal, we tell them how much e-waste they've directed away from a landfill.

What's the best dish you can cook?

I can grill a really good steak.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Bhutan. It is the happiest country in the world. It is the only country that, in addition to measuring GDP, they also measure the gross domestic happiness of the citizens. I'm really curious as to what is their secret.

This article originally appeared in the October issue of the Modern Mobility e-zine.

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