Last Thursday Sprint announced the creation of what it called its Electronics Stewardship Policy, which outlines a number of commitments and goals in handling electronic waste. These are:
To design and procure electronics that are more environmentally sustainable. Specifically, at least 70% of Sprint-branded devices launched annually will meet the company’s environmental scorecard criteria by 2017.
Maximize the useful life of equipment. The company will provide service and repair for most Sprint-branded
handsets for three years or more after they are introduced.
The company will boost collection of equipment for reuse and recycling. There are two goals; by 2017 to collect 90% of all phones they sell for reuse or recycling; by the same time, collect all of Sprint’s annual e-waste for reuse and recycling.
Maximize reuse of electronics through redeployment and remarketing.
Ensure the responsibly recycling of e-scrap by keeping it out of landfill, separating materials for recovery and making sure e-scrap is not shipped to developing countries.
Use environmentally and socially responsible vendors for recycling and remanufacturing. The aim is that all of Sprint’s electronics recycling vendors will be certified by end of 2012 and all electronics remanufacturing partners certified by the end of 2013.
Well, first of all Sprint is clearly making an effort in environmental sustainability and has done well in rankings and awards from Newsweek, Frost & Sullivan and the CDP. It’s not the company’s fault that coverage of these plans have been hailed by some as a ‘zero e-waste’ goal, whatever that might mean. As far as I’m aware it’s not something the company has claimed.
There’s no such thing as zero e-waste, of course. All anyone can do is eliminate wastage in manufacture, give the product as long a working life as possible and, when it’s no longer of any use, ensure that materials are reclaimed and the remainder disposed of in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible.
All the company commits to do is “collect all of Sprint’s annual e-waste for reuse and recycling”. As far as I can tell this is little more than what all EU companies are obliged to do under the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) legislation. In any case, Sprint points out that it will only maximise the material recovery from e-scrap “to the extent technically and economically practical”, which means not all.
For me the real surprise in the announcement is that the company is “committed to providing service and repair for most Sprint-branded handsets for three years or more after they are introduced”. Didn’t they before? I’ve had my phone longer than that already.