* Ron LeMay, David Edmonson turn to phone recycling
* Says consumers need incentives to return old phones
* U.S. recycles 10 pct of 130 mln retired cells -research
* Aims to boost phone returns for recycling to 30 mln/year
LAS VEGAS, March 22 Former heads of Sprint
Nextel Corp (S.N) and RadioShack Corp RSH.N have launched a
company aimed at refurbishing or recycling the estimated 65,000
tonnes of old cellphones U.S. consumers ditch every year and
named Sprint as its first customer.
Ron LeMay, once Chief Executive for Sprint's wireless
business and David Edmonson, former CEO of electronics retailer
RadioShack founded eRecyclingCorps to set up phone trade-in
schemes for operators to encourage consumers to return old
phones to carriers instead of putting them in the trash.
Under its plan, consumers would turn up at their network
operator's store with their old phone and get credit for the
value of that device to be put toward a new phone.
The carrier stores, which sell about 60 percent of U.S.
cellphones, would then send the phones to eRecyclingCorps. It
pays the carrier for the phones and sorts out which devices
should be recycled and which ones can be refurbished. It would
then sell the revamped phones to consumers in emerging markets.
The company's Chief Executive David Edmonson said he
expects this system to work much better than current recycling
programs where consumers either donate their phone or wait
weeks to be reimbursed after mailing the device.
"The trick here is to provide a meaningful incentive to
consumers," Edmonson said in an interview on Monday ahead of
the CTIA annual U.S. wireless show in Las Vegas.
Sprint has asked eRecyclingCorps to handle phones returned
to 1,100 of its own stores and 1,400 of its third-party dealers
as part of its own aim to have nine phones out of 10 recycled
or reused for every phone it sells by 2017.
Edmonson said he hopes his company can help it reach that
Dallas, Texas based eRecyclingCorps said only 1 percent of
the world's 4 billion mobile phone users recycle their old
phones, while 10 percent of the roughly 275 million U.S.
wireless users recycle their handsets. It cited research from
the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection
Edmonson said that after proving that the concept can work
at Sprint, he is in active talks with other carriers and aims
to convince consumers to return 20 million to 30 million of the
130 million phones they retire each year.
"I'd call that a good start," he said.
Edmonson said he feels a responsibility to help deal with
the issue of cellphone waste because he helped create the
problem by being instrumental in developing the U.S. mobile
phone market during his time at RadioShack.
However the company is still hoping to profit handsomely
from the endeavor.
He estimated that it can achieve profit margins of about 35
percent on recycling and refurbishing phones that are traded
in, of which roughly 80 to 85 percent have some value.
And once the consumers of the refurbished phones in places
such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are ready for their
next device, the company is looking into whether it can work
with the governments of those countries to get involved in
recycling or cleanly disposing of the devices again.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Lincoln Feast)