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Sprint Re:cycle


Conscientious Operations

Sprint values the trust that customers place in the company when they turn in their used mobile devices through Sprint collection programs. Sprint strives to provide them with peace of mind and the knowledge that it will act a responsible steward of their equipment.

Electronics Stewardship Policy
Sprint’s Electronics Stewardship Policy clearly states the company's pledge to responsibly address electronic waste (e-waste). A first for the telecommunications industry, this policy outlines how Sprint is focusing on the full lifecycle of the electronics it buys and sells. Click here for an overview of the policy, including highlights of the commitments Sprint has set and why each of these commitments was established.

EPA Commitment

On July 20, 2011, Sprint took its commitment to safely manage used electronics a step further. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse joined the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council for Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration in Austin, Tex., for the unveiling of the federal government's new "National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship." At the event, Sprint signed a statement on shared principles with the EPA and a voluntary commitment to promote the use of third-party certified recyclers, provide downstream assurance and increase the transparency of its recycling operations.

This key initial support led to development of a national program a year later. On Sept. 20, 2012, the EPA launched the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge, and with it Sprint became the first wireless carrier to participate. This new program challenges major manufacturers and retailers of electronics to voluntarily commit to sending 100 percent of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling to third-party certified recyclers, increase the total amount of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling, and publically post information and data on electronics recovery and disposal. Links to Sprint's annual collection results reported to the EPA from 2012-2010 can be found on this page in the "Learn More" box.


Sprint places a high priority on reuse — that is finding a second life for functioning devices and components. Reuse conserves more energy and raw materials than recycling, as it reduces the need to manufacture new devices. More than 90 percent of the 11 million phones Sprint collected in 2011 were reused. Most of these devices will be provided to customers as replacements for their non-working equipment or for sale as pre-owned, certified devices at a fraction the cost of new.

To ensure that these devices are of the highest quality, Sprint invests significant resources to clean, repair, recondition, test and update software on them in partnership with the original manufacturers before providing them to customers for reuse. If a phone is damaged, Sprint will reclaim as many of the functioning parts as possible for use in the repair and remanufacturing of other devices. As a founding member of the Device Renewal Forum, Sprint seeks to share these types of best practices with the industry while encouraging others to adopt the same high standard for remanufacturing.

The remaining phones set aside for reuse will be tested and sold through other wireless carriers in the U.S. and abroad. Many of these devices provide individuals in developing countries with access to low-cost wireless communications, which can help raise their standard of living.

In addition to the financial and social value, reusing devices also yields significant environmental benefits. Based on figures from the Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, every one million phones that are reused, rather than recycled:

  • Saves 40 million kWh of electricity — enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. households for one year
  • Reduces demand for primary materials by 77 metric tons — the weight of nearly 600 refrigerators
  • Reduces demand for potentially toxic materials by 1.5 metric tons — the weight of more than 700 bricks

Data Removal

Sprint's policy is to erase user data from all mobile devices collected through the company's takeback programs before reuse. Sprint works closely with original manufacturers to help ensure thorough removal of data, including contact lists, call history, email, SMS files, calendars, photos, videos, ringers, and Web browsing history. Sprint's vendors are contractually obligated to follow its data-erasing policies and are regularly audited by Sprint to confirm compliance. As an added layer of protection, Sprint recommends that customers erase all personal and work-related data from their devices before sending it to Sprint.


Sprint strives to responsibly recycle any electronic scrap (e-scrap) collected from customers or generated through its remanufacturing operations — mobile devices, parts and accessories that are obsolete and/or beyond economic repair.

Sprint and its vendors make every reasonable effort to control this material and prevent it from entering landfills and waste incinerators, or being dumped. Recycling of e-scrap is conducted only at ISO-14001 certified facilities in OECD (developed) countries, and in accordance with all applicable federal, state and local regulations. No prison labor is used in these recycling processes. In addition, Sprint has set an ambitious goal for third-party vendor certification and made a public commitment to the EPA on safe management of used electronics. Click here for additional details.

To the extent technically and economically practical, plastic, glass and other materials are manually separated for recovery prior to extracting precious metals through smelting. These base materials are then given a new life and used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products. For instance:

  • Plastics are ground and mixed with resins to make products like lawn furniture, non-food containers, license-plate frames and replacement automotive parts
  • Precious metals recovered from mobile phones and accessories (e.g., gold, silver, platinum, copper and brass) are used to produce jewelry, electronics, plumbing and catalysts, among other things
  • Waste by-product from the metals smelting process is used as flux for large mining refineries
  • Rechargeable batteries are reconditioned to create new rechargeable-battery products or recycled to recover metals that make new products, such as solder and stainless-steel goods.
  • Paper from packaging and user manuals is captured and transformed into a component of fiber- board products

Designing with the End in Mind

Sprint is committed to providing customers with more mobile devices designed with the end disposition in mind. In 2009, Sprint was the first U.S. wireless provider to share with its manufacturers a vision and specifications for environmentally sustainable design — one that would reduce the ecological footprint of these devices, extend their usable life, and make them easier and safer to reuse and recycle. In January 2011, Sprint went a step further. In an industry-first move, Sprint enhanced its vendor scorecard to require all mobile phones it carries go through the UL Environment UL-ISR 110 certification process. Among other things, the certification sets specifications for reducing the use of environmentally sensitive materials and improving overall device reparability and recyclability.