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Circular Economy and Supply Chain Excellence

Product Returns & Recycling

Central to the concept of a circular economy is maintaining assets at their highest and best use for as long as possible.

Customer and partner programs

The Cisco Migration Incentive Program (MIP; formerly the Technology Migration Program) and Product Takeback and Reuse Program (formerly Takeback and Recycling) enable customers to return equipment at end-of-use. MIP is a global channel partner program that uses discounts in exchange for product returns to reward partners for migrating their customers’ networks to new Cisco technologies. The Product Takeback and Reuse Program, which includes the Exceptional Pick-Up Program (EPUP), provides a simple, secure and sustainable means of returning end-of-use Cisco equipment, along with Cisco acquired company equipment, at no cost. It was relaunched in fiscal 2020 in support of our commitment to the circular economy and our pledge of 100 percent product return.

Customers who specifically seek to return end-of-life equipment to be recycled can take advantage of Cisco's free recycling program, recently rebranded as Customer Recycling Solutions (CRS). The CRS Program focuses on Cisco-branded items that are ready to be recycled. CRS also accepts equipment from other manufacturers that has been replaced by newly purchased Cisco items. These materials go to the closest Cisco-approved recycling site. The number of locations of Cisco authorized recyclers continues to expand based on the growth in our business and the requirements of local regulations.

In fiscal 2020, we launched a unified Cisco Returns Portal. This is an online destination for customers and partners to find consolidated information for all types of Cisco returns.

Internal programs

Manufacturing Scrap/Reuse and Global Scrap

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. In addition, the Global Scrap Program supports the recycling needs of our contracted repair manufacturers and distribution depots. Both programs are a valuable source of reusable product.

eBin Program

The largest of Cisco’s internal programs is the eBin/Lab Scrap Program. eBins are green plastic rolling bins, or in some cases gaylord boxes, that are placed in labs or Cisco offices around the world to collect orphaned, used, and test equipment for recycling. In fiscal 2020, our eBin program serviced 235 offices and accounted for 13 percent of the total recycling weight collected globally.

Cisco DC Server Recycling

The Cisco Data Center Server Recycling Program serves data centers in 11 countries. When a data center no longer needs a server, it is offered to other Cisco data centers for possible reuse. When one of these servers reaches the end of its useful life, it is recycled, and all parts are shredded.

Non-Genuine Brand Program

The Non-Genuine Materials Program handles “non-genuine” Cisco products we occasionally receive in equipment returns. Items are classified non-genuine if they are competitor products or if they are Cisco products that have been altered by someone outside of our certified repair vendors. They can also come to Cisco through law enforcement seizure of counterfeit Cisco equipment. When we find non-genuine equipment, we use a special witnessed protocol whereby we shred and separate materials into their basic components to send to downstream recyclers and vendors.

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, and Cisco pays to have the materials recycled properly. Any Cisco office location can host a recycling day event. In fiscal 2019, we held our 24th annual Recycle IT Day event, with 161 Cisco sites around the world participating and 191.5 metric tonnes of used electronics collected. Since Cisco started holding these events in 1995, our employees and contractors have helped recycle 3,235 metric tonnes of used electronics.

Recycle IT Day usually takes place on or around Earth Day in April. In fiscal 2020, we were primed to have another successful event; however, due to COVID-19, we postponed and eventually canceled this year’s instance for the safety of our employees.

WEEE compliance

Cisco closely monitors developing Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation globally and complies with applicable WEEE regulations. Access information on our compliance with product recycling regulations, such as the WEEE Directive and others. Products are labeled with a crossed-out “wheelie bin” symbol to encourage users to reuse or recycle electronics instead of putting them in the trash.

14001 requirements of EOL providers

Cisco’s Global eScrap Management Aspect Test (SMAT) is responsible for setting objectives for all ISO 14001 Cisco offices. These objectives are crafted in line with significant environmental aspects identified by Cisco’s EMS and Environmental Aspect Management process. They drive Cisco’s environmental performance, commitment to pollution prevention, and continual improvement. Since fiscal 2016, our target has been to keep the percentage of material sent to landfill after initial processing under 0.48 percent. In fiscal 2019, the SMAT team lowered the objective to 0.38 percent. While we continue to aim for decreased material sent to landfill, we also recognize that Cisco has limited control over the material received at the recycler. Therefore, we expect our landfill percentage to remain consistent annually and will maintain the 0.38 percent objective.

Our trade-in and recycling programs are designed to bring back the products that Cisco or our acquired companies have sold to channel partners. Of products sent to our e-scrap recyclers, nearly 100 percent are broken down into commodity fractions and sent to downstream vendors to create new products.

KPI FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 FY20 Comments
KPIProduct returns, metric tonnes FY1511,718 FY1612,609 FY1711,398 FY1813,946 FY199,881 FY208,914 CommentsAll materials sent for harvesting, recycling, and reuse including materials received via a Product Return Materials Authorization (RMA)
KPIRefurbish, resell, and reuse rate, percent FY1524.78% FY1619.00% FY1715.74% FY1831.04% FY1913.14% FY2015.29% CommentsMaterial returned from customers, stock rotations, or internal sources that is redeployed by Value Recovery and Repo Depot groups to Cisco Service Supply, Cisco Refresh, or internal users to avoid new purchases
KPIRecycle rate, percent FY1574.95% FY1680.72% FY1783.90% FY1868.61% FY1986.48% FY2084.55% CommentsAll remaining electronic waste materials, including plastics, precious and non-precious metals, that are shredded and recycled by our contracted e-scrap recyclers
KPIReturned material sent to landfill, percent FY150.27% FY160.28% FY170.36% FY180.35% FY190.38% FY200.16% CommentsLandfill material consists only of nonelectronic waste materials, such as broken pallets, wet cardboard, and shrink wrap accompanying Cisco products returned by customers for recycling

Recycling and harvesting

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.

Additionally, our contracts require recyclers to enforce our strict and formally documented recycling processes with any of their subcontractors doing Cisco work. We approve every prospective recycling company and every recycling location before sending any Cisco equipment for processing.

Each contracted recycler provides Cisco with monthly reports showing all 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.

Cisco’s overarching goal is to redeploy as much material as possible, which led to the launch of a harvesting pilot program in January 2017. The program allows our recycling partners to capture commodity components from materials for the first time. The pilot was a success, and harvesting is now part of our standard process.

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 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.

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

Countries in which Cisco has recycling locations