Sage Sustainable Electronics Giving Gadgets New Life

Chances are you have an old laptop or early generation iPhone stored in a desk drawer somewhere. Whether it’s there just in case or because you’re not sure what else to do with it, a new Columbus-based company is giving everyone from individuals to large corporations an outlet to recycle their old electronics.

Sage Sustainable Electronics will launch from a new west-side facility Jan. 6, 2015.

“Sage has a very aspirational goal to end the throwing away of electronics before the end of useful life,” says President Jill Vaské  “[We] have been working to professionalize the electronics recycling industry and produce a more reusable yield from the enormous surplus that is essentially being stored away by most small businesses, individuals and even big corporations.”

It’s an industry with its challenges. How do you determine what a device is worth? What about the data stored on recycled electronics? Constantly evolving technology is leaving a surplus of devices that might still have a lot of life left in them, but because the cost of refurbishing, many people choose to just recycle and shred their devices.

“Sage was founded on the basis that we’re going to prevent that from happening,” Vaské says. The company aims for a higher reusable yield from abandoned devices. Industry standard is about 30 to 40 percent, Sage is shooting for 80 percent.

Sage will work with all kinds of devices – desktops, laptops, mobile devices, smart phones, data center equipment, networking equipment, basically anything a business would use to equip its workforce.

While there are other competitors in the market, many won’t accept anything but pristine condition devices. Sage is taking a different approach.

“We believe there is parts value, there is material value,” Vaské says. “That’s going to be one of the big differences with Sage, our program will offer people whatever the value is, it doesn’t only compensate you for great working devices.”

The company’s biggest challenge and opportunity are one in the same – figuring out the best way to repurpose and reuse electronics at lightning speed.

To answer the call, the company has created The Sage Blue Book. The book will provide appraisals on products, parts and materials for a plethora of electronic devices.SageBlueBook

“The idea is that with the help of a enormous data collecting tool we will be able to provide people with an extremely accurate appraisal,” Vaské says.

For example, a technician will scan a donated device – say it’s a Mac Book missing a hard drive. The Blue Book will instantly provide data that will help make the decision between refurbish and part. Say the Mac Book is worth $40 without its hard drive, and a new hard drive only costs $16 and replacing it will yield a much higher resale value. The part will be installed and the Mac Book resold. However, unlike many other companies in the industry, Sage won’t buy the $40 Mac, refurbish, resell and pocket the profits. The company makes the investment on the hard drive on a customer’s behalf and gives them the profit. Sage just takes the cost of services out of the upsell along with a modest commission, still leaving a customer with vastly more than if they had just sold the device to a broker.

Now instead say the hard drive costs $90 to replace. Sage’s system will tell the technician to part the device. If the parts aren’t worth anything, the system will then evaluate the value of the materials and give the cost of the materials back to whoever donated it.

The Sage Blue Book is a powerful tool that individuals and businesses will be able to utilize. Individuals can access a free version online to decide what to do with their device – sell, refurbish or donate. There will also be a pro version of Sage Blue Book that allows businesses small and large to appraise their electronics portfolio.

Sage’s e-commerce platform will be easy to use and focus more on product use than speeds and specifications.

“People overbuy a lot,” Vaské says. “It’s more oriented towards the use of the device.” The company is aiming for resale prices that are competitive but affordable. There’s a lot of value and opportunity being wasted when electronics are retired prematurely, instead they can be refurbished for a whole population of people who don’t have access to technology because it’s so expensive.

Sage is also working on establishing programs for consumers and small and medium size businesses.

“One of the gaps I see in the industry in general is consumers and small businesses aren’t treated with the same kind of privacy care that big businesses are,” Vaské  says. For example, an individual knows that when they donate a device they should eradicate their data, but they don’t know how to do it.

“We’re taking all of our enterprise-grade services and offering to small/medium businesses as well as the consumers,” she says. One such program assists companies that have a bring-your-own-device policy with wiping data on devices that they don’t own. If an employee decides to upgrade to a new device, the individual will be invited to trade the product in through the Sage program. The employer pays for a data wipe, and the employee can utilize Sage’s trade-in services.

Sage’s Columbus headquarters is just the beginning.

“We have a very, very aggressive growth plan,” Vaské  says. “We’re adding a new plant every six months for the next two to three years.” Reno and Baltimore are next on the list of Sage locations with February openings slated for both.

Locally Sage also plans an aggressive expansion of their team. The company has about 20 employees now and wants to add another 30 over the next six months.

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