Monday, October 8, 2012

Value recovery of e-waste

In this week’s reading from McKinsey Quarterly on “Manufacturing resource productivity,” we were introduced to some ideas on how to deal with the rapid increase in commodity prices. Among the ideas discussed were prioritizing and optimizing processes in upstream and downstream manufacturing, and waste-management. The latter made me recall a commitment by Sony for a zero footprint by 2050. The basic idea is to collect old Sony products and non-Sony eligible electronics and reuse the components. For their items, consumers receive credit for future Sony purchases. They have setup a website to find out where drop-off locations are (thus reducing the transportation requirements by using hubs), and you can also check other online trading sites to compare prices.

It appears to be a win-win for consumer and company alike as the consumer gets credit for products and feels better about recycling older products while Sony gets access to cheap materials and repeat customers. I am not sure if Sony was the originator of this type of program, but the idea is spreading. Apple has a similar Reuse and Recycle program and has partnered with companies like PowerOn in order to purchase used Apple products. Similar to Sony, consumers receive gift cards for apple products. Some of the products are broken down for later manufacturing while others are refurbished and resold.

Other companies are jumping on this bandwagon as well. In a recent article by Mickey Meece, of Gadgetwise, he lists Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Radio Shack, and even Walmart as companies with similar services.[1] Each company varies in their refund process. Interestingly, consumers are actually able to predict the release of new products by the list of acceptable products taken for recycling. For example, Apple and PowerOn will begin to take the most recent models of an iPhone or iPad right before the release of new versions. Early birds get the best deals. Looks like eBay has some competition for reselling old things.


Do you think Sony can achieve a Zero Footprint by 2050? What do they need to do besides use e-waste? Can you think of other SC elements that need to be perfected in order to achieve this goal?

Do you know where to recycle e-waste on campus? In Pittsburgh?

[1] Meece, Mickey. “How to Sell Your Old iPad Now.” Gadgetwise of The New York Times. 1 March 2012. URL:

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