Not long ago, I came across a fascinating article about curbing e-waste related to the mobile devices many of us use every day.
In the article, Doug Pasquale, President of Supply Chain Services for Ingram Micro Mobility (an iQmetrix partner company), extols the virtues of reverse logistics for managing the millions of phones that get "returned, processed, and either triaged, refurbished, or recycled" and this process is typically handled by third-party logistics (3PL) providers, instead of shipping products directly back to the OEM.
"Retailers are offering more trade-in and upgrade programs to provide a better customer experience," he writes.
In simple terms, “reverse logistics” means dealing with a returned product that can no longer be resold. Beyond cost savings for the retailer, the best benefit to reverse logistics for mobile devices is that it's green! Allowing returned products to be recycled, repurposed or reused instead of ending up in a landfill are outcomes that anybody can get behind.
Depending on what's available in your local area, retailers can either partner with a recycling service or self-recycle. For products like batteries, which post a risk to the environment, it's important to ensure they are disposed of safely. One of our Canadian clients suggested Green Tech, for example, which collects the products for recycling, consolidates and ships recyclable materials off -- all for free.
Repurposing for Reuse/Resale
These options are typical at wireless retail stores. At iQmetrix, our available handset trade-in partners include HYLA Mobile and Phobio. Some retailers also participate in carrier-run programs that operate in a similar fashion. These programs are great in that they allow the customer to obtain some credit back for the device, it is a cost-free revenue opportunity for the retailer, and the device can be either refurbished for use (sometimes in emerging foreign markets) or have its parts recycled. Either way, the device is prevented from ending up in a landfill.
Other Opportunities for 'Green' Retail
Beyond reverse logistics, other ways for retailers to think "green" include:
- E-receipts: Going paperless (i.e. emailing receipts to customers) not only cuts paper costs, it gives the retailer an opportunity to connect/market to the customer via email.
- Reducing shipping: Reduce emissions by limiting the number of times products move between store locations.
- E-signature: Similar to e-receipts, cutting down paper is the way of the future.
- Reducing packaging: Many customers nowadays would opt out of taking their purchase in a bag. And if you do need to offer bags, try sourcing paper ones instead of plastic.