Slingshot is inviting new customers to choose a "pre-loved" modem in a bid to reduce e-waste, and has teamed up with environmental charity Keep New Zealand Beautiful to promote the campaign and help raise funds for the not-for-profit.
Those who choose the "Ugly" option don't get outdated hardware, Slingshot boss Taryn Hamilton tells the Herald.
"The Ugly modems are the same as our 'standard' modem, the one we ship customers in normal circumstances," he says. "The firmware is up to date and they all get tested and tidied up before shipping to customers.
"We've dubbed the recycled modems 'Ugly', but in reality, the modems are in perfect working order, but have a few scratches and bumps from a previous life.
"Instead of consigning perfectly functional equipment to e-waste or landfill, we're asking customers to take one on, and we'll give money to a good cause."
Slingshot will donate $15 to Keep New Zealand Beautiful every time someone selects an Ugly modem.
Hamilton says Slingshot retains ownership of modems it sends to customers, and at the end of a contract, its get the modems back and refurbishes them to look brand new.
Around 30 per cent of the items returned from customers are considered unusable due to external damage, including discolouring or marks.
"A good proportion are entirely functional, but, well, they're a bit too ugly to send to a new customer. Unless that customer specifically agrees to it," Hamilton says.
Usual business practice is to send equipment in this condition to e-waste processing. While a proportion of the electronics is recycled, there is an inevitable quantity which goes into landfill.
Locally and globally, so-called e-waste is recognised as a significant challenge. One estimate puts total e-waste at 48 million tons a year, while a recent Radio New Zealand article estimates that 20kg of e-waste is created for every New Zealander, every year.
That waste comprises old computers, dead mobile phones, junked televisions and, inevitably, quite a few ugly but functional modems. For more than 50 years, Keep New Zealand Beautiful has mobilised more than 100,000 volunteers every year, cleaning up beaches, picking up litter, removing graffiti, planting trees and more.
Keep NZ Beautiful CEO Heather Saunderson says, "It is estimated that more than 80,000 tonnes of electrical waste is disposed of in landfill each year. We can't do without our technology equipment, but where possible we can reduce, reuse and recycle. It's great to see a company recognise its role in reducing environmental impact through effective recycling – so I encourage anyone who wants to do their bit to take on an Ugly modem. Because in this case, ugly really is beautiful."