The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is grateful to the sponsors who make it possible to award cash prizes as part of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition.
Professional Field Services (PFS) is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Erin Elmiger, PFS Director of Business Development and Client Relations, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.
SEI: What does Professional Field Services do, and how does that relate to sustainable electronics?
Erin Elmiger: PFS (www.professionalfieldservices.net) is passionate about efficiency and helping organizations work smarter. We connect with consumers directly to provide personalized service to retrieve obsolete, EOL electronics. We then deliver these items to organizations that can properly and securely dispose, refurbish and recycle. PFS retrieves the end-of-life (EOL) products directly from the consumer’s home and delivers to those organizations that design, produce, reuse, remanufacture and recycle electronic devices etc.
SEI: Can you explain what the term “reverse logistics” means?
Erin Elmiger: Employing 1100 representatives in 200 cities nationwide and serving over 15 years in the end user returns business, PFS are experts at deploying retrieval specialists to a consumer’s home in partnership with our service provider clients. We understand how to help our clients recover outstanding delinquent returns (payments and/or consumer leased equipment) directly from their customer base. Based on our extensive reverse logistics (RL) experience, PFS can apply our resources & operations infrastructure to recover other end of life equipment residentially or commercially, for the purpose of final disposition. We can also support the timely return of other delinquent assets for a variety of service provider organizations (aging warranty parts and replacements, e-commerce returns, etc.).
For PFS, reverse logistics is the return process for delinquent, EOL or obsolete electronics. PFS helps organizations who desire EOL products by interacting directly with the consumer and expediting the return process quicker and more efficiently than engaging huge shipping vendors. Organizations can outsource this entire process to PFS and feel confident that the job is getting done.
SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?
- Education for consumers (e.g. not to throw items out).
- A larger network of recyclers would, of course, help.
- Government or other incentives (or regulations) which would result in higher recycling or return rates.
- Provide financial incentives for companies and service providers to focus on the value of residential recycling vs. the more dominant business of large scale business-to-business (B2B) recycling
SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier?
- Educate consumers
- Provide incentives to consumers to recycle the right way
- Partner with PFS directly or with local agencies in conjunction with PFS, to provide a direct residential recycling solution
SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general, or your customers more specifically, don’t realize?
Erin Elmiger: Consumers may not realize how important it is to properly dispose of unused electronics in a secure and safe way. Important data that may still be in disk storage, pose a serious data security risk to consumers if not disposed of correctly and safely.
Consumers must learn to properly recycle dangerous materials found in most electronics and to be diligent about keeping these items out of our community landfills, and preventing the improper disposal by other 3rd party service providers that could be shipping these electronics out of the country, posing a global risk.
It is the duty and responsibility of consumers to recycle e-waste responsibly as there is recurring value in reclaiming, re-using or re-purposing the non-renewable materials found in these electronics.
Safely and properly recovered EOL assets could mean the sustainability of many electronics. This helps to support an important “after market” industry for our local, national and global economies.
PFS can make it easy and convenient for the consumer and service provider to dispose of EOL electronics by offering a home retrieval and disposal service. In addition to end consumers, PFS is also able to save local and regional agencies and larger industry service organizations, time, money and resources spent on aggregating valuable assets from their local communities. For some companies, it may mean a financially viable residential recovery program versus an exclusive B2B recycling business strategy.
SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?
Erin Elmiger: Participants in the competition have the ability to influence many aspects of electronics usage and disposition of products in the future. Students can provide valuable insight and advice for all steps in the electronics supply chain. We hope to make this process more visible to all of the key stakeholders and work to increase recycling and return rates across the country.
Thanks, Erin! See http://www.ewaste.illinois.edu/sponsors.cfm for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.