By Alexis Petru / Source: TriplePundit


Have a bright idea for a new way to recycle an old smartphone? This week, Sprint launched its first-ever Smartphone Encore Challenge that invites students to come up with innovative and profitable ways to give new life to these unwanted devices or their components – for the chance to win $5,000 to turn their business plan into reality.

The wireless carrier launched the competition on Monday. It’s open to teams of undergraduate and graduate students who are members of corporate social responsibility (CSR) nonprofit Net Impact’s 155 collegiate chapters across the United States. To participate, students will develop and submit a product concept and business pitch using secondhand smartphones and accessories provided by Sprint and wireless distributor Brightstar.

Motivated by the growing environmental problem of electronic waste, Sprint is partnering with Net Impact, Brightstar and electronics recycler HOBI International on the recycling challenge. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans toss out 135 million cell phones each year, according to Sprint, and only 11 percent are recycled.

But secondhand phones contain valuable materials, and those in good working condition maintain many of their capabilities; thus, these phones represent an “untapped business opportunity,” the company said in a statement. Smartphones in decent working order retain their high-tech features – an accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, camera and display screen – and still have the capacity to capture, process, store and transfer data, Sprint said. Currently, most gently-used smartphones are resold in emerging economies like China, although the domestic market for secondhand devices is growing, thanks to carrier trade-in programs and electronics resellers like Gazelle and Amazon.

Unwanted and unusable phones can be disassembled into their component parts – plastics, batteries, and metals like gold, copper, silver and palladium – and made into new products.

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