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Product returns, reuse, and recycling

Central to the concept of a circular economy is maintaining assets at their highest and best use for as long as possible. Cisco has programs to facilitate product returns for reuse and recycling, offer comprehensive service and repair, and remanufacture used equipment for sale through Cisco Refresh. These programs can create a second life for equipment, thereby saving resources required for new manufacturing and reducing waste.

Service programs

Cisco’s Supply Chain Services & Logistics organization supports customer and partner hardware Return Material Authorizations (RMAs). We optimize our network and inventory levels as parts are used, customers deploy new products, and hardware becomes obsolete. In an effort to maximize products’ useful life, we replace, recover, and refurbish equipment and components through an extensive logistics, warehouse, planning, and repair operations network. Devices are repaired and thoroughly tested to support adherence to the latest manufacturing specifications.

The Customer Experience (CX) Intelligent RMA Experience (IRE) program aims to accelerate the resolution of cases involving an RMA and to enable a seamless RMA experience requiring minimal touch for the customer, reducing risk of damage to the product. IRE provides RMA support using an AI (artificial intelligence)/ML (machine learning) prediction engine and robotic process automation. In fiscal 2023, IRE helped avoid over 3400 RMAs through automation of workflows to troubleshoot some of the most common issues with products in the field. This process helps reduce carbon emissions and supports Cisco’s circular economy efforts. Cisco will continue to look for additional ways to support our customers’ needs and reduce logistics transactions.

Returns programs

Returns Portal—The Returns Portal is an online destination for customers and partners to find consolidated information for all types of Cisco returns. Some return programs are highlighted below. Many of these programs support our PACE Capital Equipment pledge.

Customer and partner programs

  • Environmental Sustainability Specialization (ESS)—Provides Cisco partners the opportunity to both enhance their sustainability capabilities and stand out in the market as sustainability leaders.
  • Takeback Incentive—A global partner incentive that motivates partners to migrate customers to new advanced technologies and return used hardware back to Cisco for responsible reuse or recycling.
  • No-cost pickup and return for end-of-use products—Multiple options for customers to return working equipment to Cisco based on their needs and location, including using the Send IT Back app and the Cisco Returns Program. For non-working equipment, customers can use Customer Recycling Solutions (CRS).
  • Green Pay—An IT payment solution supporting circularity and making it easier for customers to build a sustainable technology strategy to support their ESG goals. The program offers predictable payments, an up-front incentive, free returns shipping and a Circular Economy Program confirmation on returned assets. Learn how Cosentino, a Cisco customer, made use of Green Pay.

Programs for companies producing or repairing Cisco products

  • Manufacturing Scrap/Reuse Program—The Cisco Manufacturing Scrap/Reuse Program collects and works to redeploy excess, obsolete, or damaged materials from our contract manufacturers, manufacturing partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), original design manufacturers (ODMs), and proprietary component suppliers.
  • Global Scrap—The Global Scrap Program supports the recycling needs of our contracted repair manufacturers and distribution depots.

Internal programs

  • eBin Program—Cisco's eBin/Lab Scraps Program places green plastic rolling bins, or in some cases gaylord boxes, in Cisco labs or offices around the world to collect orphaned, used, and test equipment for recycling.
  • Recycle IT Day—We also hold an annual Recycle IT Day for our employees. Cisco employees and contractors can bring their e-scrap from home (both Cisco and non-Cisco products), and we pay to have the materials recycled properly. Recycle IT Day usually takes place at multiple Cisco locations on or around Earth Day in April. Since Cisco started holding these events in 1995, our employees and contractors have helped recycle 3283 metric tonne of used electronics.
Product return, reuse, and recycling
In fiscal 2023, we revised the following table with updated data sources.
KPI FY20 FY21 FY22 FY23 Comments
KPI: Returned material reused, percent FY20:14.2% FY21: 14.1% FY22: 7.9% FY23: 12.1% Comments: Material returned from customers or internal sources that are redeployed to Manufacturing Stock, Cisco Refresh, Cisco Services, or other internal users to reduce new product purchases.
KPI: Returned material sent to recycle, percent FY20:85.7% FY21: 85.8% FY22: 92.0% FY23: 87.7% Comments: All remaining electronic waste materials, including plastics, precious, and nonprecious metals, are shredded and recycled by our contracted e-scrap recyclers.
KPI: Returned material sent to landfill, percent FY20:0.16% FY21: 0.08% FY22: 0.12% FY23: 0.21% Comments: Landfill material consists only of non-electronic waste materials such as broken pallets, wet cardboard, and shrink wrap as well as unrecovered materials from the recycling process.
KPI: Total materials, metric tonne FY20:10,383 FY21: 9478 FY22: 8561 FY23: 10,213 Comments: Total weight of reused, recycled, and landfilled material.

Reuse, resale, and recycling

Reuse is among our top priorities. Returned devices that can be reused are remanufactured, refurbished, or repaired, and resold by Cisco Refresh, or used by Cisco service operations or our internal labs. Products that are not reusable are harvested for components and recycled by one of our authorized recyclers. With the Send IT Back app, customers simply take photos of the products they want to return, and shipping agents contact them to arrange a free pickup. As of fiscal 2023, the Send IT Back app is available in in 27 European Union countries, the United Kingdom and the United States. The ease with which a customer or partner can now process returns directly contributed to a doubling of customers and partners using the tool between fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2022. CRS, our customer and partner recycling solution, remains available for those with nonworking product for equipment to be recycled in a secure and responsible manner. Cisco is developing a long-term roadmap to expand the ease and simplicity of product returns.

Alongside our efforts to increase the reuse of equipment, we work to address external barriers to scale these opportunities. We collaborate with peer companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and policymakers to address challenges and unintended consequences that can impact our ability to repair equipment.

Reuse and resale programs

When products are returned to Cisco, we evaluate their condition and eligibility for reuse. If the product is in usable condition or repairable and there is demand for the product, it undergoes a testing and/or repair process to meet Cisco’s quality standards. Cisco prioritizes data security by performing data sanitization to NIST 800-88 R1 specifications prior to reuse.

  • R2A—Our Return to A-Stock program sends unused products from our distribution centers to be reused by our contracted manufacturing sites. Returned products that are considered “new-in-box” are sent back to be tested and, if necessary, reconfigured. This allows us to better reuse products while also improving our ability to satisfy demand for new equipment without new manufacturing.
  • Services—CX evaluates products returned under service contracts for reparability. Repairable items are delivered to service repair vendors that categorize, repair, and refurbish products. Once repair is complete, these items are shipped to Service Logistics warehouses to be supplied as advanced replacement parts to other customers and partners in the event of a Service RMA. CX keeps replacement parts strategically located near its customers to maximize RMA response efficiency and minimize transport emissions.
  • Cisco Refresh—Cisco’s certified remanufactured products are backed by the same Cisco warranty and service options as new products. Equipment is sold through Cisco authorized resellers and is available in more than 70 countries. Inventory includes products from technology areas including switching, routing, wireless, IP telephony, security, and other advanced technologies.
  • Repo Depot—The Repo Depot program collects and redistributes lab equipment for Cisco internal use in the United States. In fiscal 2023, Repo Depot redistributed nearly 9824 items, representing an estimated cost avoidance of over US$6.4 million while diverting approximately 60,000 pounds of equipment from Cisco’s recycling stream.

Recycling programs

Cisco's ambition is to redeploy as much material as possible, which includes recycling and harvesting of commodity components. We currently have two contracted e-scrap recyclers. Each recycler uses both company-owned facilities and subcontracted recyclers to provide global recycling coverage. Cisco’s contracted recyclers are certified to one or more e-scrap-specific recycling standards, such as R2, R2 RIOS, eStewards, and WEEELABEX.

In addition, our contracts require recyclers to enforce our recycling processes with their subcontractors doing Cisco work. We approve prospective recycling companies and recycling locations before sending Cisco equipment for processing.

Contracted recyclers provide Cisco with monthly reports showing cases opened and processed on a lot-by-lot basis. Reports include a mass balance showing the weight as received and the weights of each fractional commodity adding up to the gross weight received. On a quarterly basis, we hold business reviews with the recyclers to review recent results, action items, and upcoming focus areas. We also conduct random site audits of recycling facilities.

After material is received and weighed on a calibrated scale, recyclers review items for possible component harvesting. They may harvest processors, memory, and other hardware with sufficient market value to offset the cost of their harvesting, cleaning, packaging, and resale. Harvested components must be cleared of data in compliance with the NIST 800-88 R1 standard before being available for resale.

After harvesting, the unit proceeds to the recycling process. The recycling process starts with each load of e-scrap being dismantled and sorted into “commodity fractions.” This separates steel, aluminum, cardboard, plastic, wire/cable, and printed circuit boards (PCBs). PCBs are shredded and sorted further before going to a specialized smelter where copper, palladium, silver, and gold are recovered. These metals are then sold on the global metals markets.

Other materials, including batteries or packaging materials, are sent to downstream recyclers to become raw material inputs for new products.

Read about Cisco’s Environmental Management System (EMS) and compliance with relevant environmental regulations, such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), Battery & Packaging Compliance, under Environmental Compliance.

Countries in which Cisco has product recycling locations

Map detailing the countries in which Cisco has product recycling locations

Countries in which Cisco has product recycling locations

  • Aland Islands
  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Benin
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of the
  • Congo, Republic of the
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Guernsey
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Isle Of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Jersey
  • Kenya
  • Korea South
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)