With a new lineup of electronic devices constantly hitting the market from big tech companies like Apple and Samsung, it is important consumers are aware of where their “outdated” electronic items go. It is estimated that every consumer in North America produces roughly 44 pounds of e-waste annually, only 12.5% of which gets recycled.
A Miami, Fla.-based retail returns company is working with large retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Amazon to help mitigate that e-waste. goTRG combines SaaS, supply chain, and reCommerce verticals to tackle the returns problem into a sustainable opportunity.
“goTRG’s mission is to make returns more efficient, profitable, and sustainable for our retail and manufacturer partners,” says Sender Shamiss, co-founder and CEO of goTRG. “goTRG is a returns management company transforming the way the world’s largest retailers and vendors process returns and distressed inventory. goTRG uses helps retailers and vendors restore products to their highest quality and bring them back into the retail ecosystem, to eliminate environmental waste.”
Waste360 recently sat down with Shamiss to discuss how goTRG’s AI-powered returns management and price decisioning platform is saving millions of returned items from ending up in landfills.
Waste360: What recycling methods do you provide to help mitigate e-waste?
Sender Shamiss: The mantra used to be reduce, reuse, recycle. Unfortunately, we live in a very consumption-focused society, where the term “reduce” does not resonate with most consumers. Therefore, we like to focus on “reuse” to prevent returned and overstock goods from ending up in a landfill.
We utilize our disposition technology at the point of an in-store or online return to route items to their most economical next path. Most of the time that means data-wiping, repairing, re-accessorizing, and reselling items to consumers online through our b2c channels, or resorting products into similar categories and selling them through our exclusive liquidation network.
To further mitigate e-waste, for items that are not able to be restored to a saleable condition, we have an active parts-harvesting program where we extract parts from non-functioning units to utilize in other units to improve our yield of functioning units. As a last resort, we will send them to our downstream recycling partners to be appropriately dealt with. We are R2 certified, so we follow the most rigorous discipline of recycling and waste mitigation.
Waste360: Why should consumers be more eco-conscious with their e-waste?
Sender Shamiss: When consumers throw away old devices or retailers toss excess inventory, they create millions of metric tons of flammable and toxic waste every year. In fact, the Global E-waste Monitor estimated e-waste production to rise to over 50 million metric tons by the end of 2021.
Improper handling and disposal of e-waste pollutes local land and groundwater, which puts food supply systems and water sources at risk. Moreover, incineration of e-waste produces harmful CO2 emissions. In fact, every device produced has a carbon footprint that contributes to man-made climate change, according to a recent United Nations report. There are currently more rare earth elements in e-waste than there are left in the ground.
Waste360: How can retailers and brands make their e-recycling initiatives known?
Sender Shamiss: One suggestion is to educate consumers at the point of purchase on how to appropriately recycle the electronic once it’s reached end-of-life or is no longer wanted and offer suggestions for drop off locations, websites, or other educational resources. Another suggestion is to standardize a discipline for recycling and recycling signage so that people cannot just contaminate true recyclables and where you cannot just put a recycling symbol on a container but then send it to a landfill.
Waste360: How can proper restoration and e-recycling help consumers get items that are backlogged due to heavy demand and supply chain delays?
Sender Shamiss: The secondary market has seen explosive growth since COVID began because of store closures and supply chain constraints. Since people couldn’t access first-hand goods because of supply shortages, they turned to reCommerce sites to access electronics and e-recyclers to use parts to feed the supply chain with other raw materials because of the shortage of parts. This created a huge opportunity for refurbishers who could restore used or unwanted products into a saleable condition and sell them online.
Because there was so much demand for these products from people who were working from home or children who moved to an online curriculum, these items were able to be sold for almost full retail price. Pre-pandemic, many consumers thought there was a stigma associated with refurbished products and that they were somehow inferior.
However, because they were forced to shop on these secondary sites, and they learned that not only could they access products at a lesser cost, but also that they were doing a positive thing for the planet by preventing these items from landfill. This awareness has led to the continued growth of the secondary market, even as more first-hand products become available, and predictions are that the secondary market will grow by 69% YoY by the end of 2021.
Waste360: Why is it so difficult to recycle e-waste?
Sender Shamiss: It is difficult to recycle e-waste because of the variety of materials used in each product. There are toxic materials that are used in certain electronics, that make it a challenge for people who are not specialists at dealing with these materials to deal with and responsibly dispose of.
The other reason it’s difficult to recycle e-waste, is because it’s not currently economically feasible to do so, and there for, most people do not go through the extra effort or spend the added cost to deal with these items properly. Once it becomes economically feasible or there are incentives provided to do things the proper way, the industry will innovate and change for the better.
Waste360: How are you partnering with top retailers to eliminate e-waste?
Sender Shamiss: Retailers and manufacturers choose to outsource their returns management to goTRG for many reasons, but as it relates to eliminating e-waste, they know that through our process, their unwanted or returned items will find their way through the circular economy and out of a landfill. Some of the world’s largest manufacturers including Lenovo and Microsoft have certified us as refurbishment providers because of the rigorous discipline we follow to data wipe, sanitize, repair, replace, rekit and repackage goods.
Another way we’re partnering with a global retailer is through our goMINT program, where we take returned premium brand electronics and refurbish them in one of our 12 facilities across North America, and then send them back to the retail store to be kept within that retailers’ supply chain ecosystem, and to diversify their product offering and give consumers access to these premium brands at affordable prices.