Why Re-use and Refurbished Smartphones Might be the Key to a Circular Economy Shift for E-waste?

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[AD] It’s hard to understate the importance of technology in our increasingly modern world. From the ease of navigation and communication given to us by smartphones and personal computing devices to the convenience of tech in the home with smart home devices and robot vacuums, tech infiltrates almost every aspect of our lives. But the convenience of being on the cutting edge may be having dire impacts on the environment.

In 2018, over 100 million computers were sold worldwide. These numbers are expected to grow in years to come and this statistic doesn’t even take into account other electronic devices such as household appliances and gadgets. A recent report has found that our society’s love of technology accumulates over 50 million tonnes of e-waste globally each year. To put it into perspective, that’s 6 kilograms per person, for every person on the planet! It goes without saying that there are bound to be environmental impacts from an industry this big. So how did we get here and what can we do to bring about a shift towards a more circular economy in the tech industry?

Built With an Expiration Date

Our parents and grandparent’s generations often used the same pieces of technology for decades. You can still find remnants of tech from that era today, often still functioning as originally intended. Some vintage tech items have even become collectibles, such as audio equipment and old video game consoles.

Modern devices, on the other hand, seem to have a finite shelf life. Smartphones, tablets, and computers are the worst offenders, with many people replacing them on a yearly basis. Is this due to an urge to constantly be on the cutting edge? Maybe in part, but there is also an issue with older devices inevitably encountering battery drain issues and becoming sluggish over time. In many cases, this is due to updated operating systems being purposefully designed to slow down older phones, as Apple has openly admitted to. You can avoid updating the operating system to stave off this tactic for a while, but eventually, you may run into the problem of some apps needing the most up to date firmware to operate properly.

Profit at the Expense of the Environment

On the side of the manufactures, it’s easy to see the temptation of luring consumers into replacing devices yearly. After all, it’s an excellent recipe for profit. If you make a product that’s built to last generations, you lose repeat business. But this practice has very real environmental impacts, some of which will eventually even hinder our ability to continue creating some of these devices. Not to mention the millions of tonnes of plastic waste generated by discarded tech annually.

Elements on the Verge of Extinction

While we may think of electronics as being mostly composed of common metal, plastic, and glass components, there are actually quite a few rare and precious elements that go into creating complex tech. Of these lesser-known elements, more than 75 are at risk of depletion within the next 100 years, such as gallium and indium. While scientists are working to find alternatives to these resources before the clock runs out, there are actions consumers and companies should be taking now in order to help fend off the inevitable.

What We Can Do to Make a Shift

As long as we as consumers continue to buy into the “built to fail” model, modern tech companies will continue to exploit our wallets and the environment for the sake of profit. However, there are small and easy steps we can take to begin the shift towards a more sustainable future for electronics, including recycling and reselling our used electronics to recycle tech websites, allowing us to earn money back for our unused or outdated electronics while also helping the environment.

Staving Off the Constant Need for the Newest Flashy Toys

Though it’s hard to resist the temptation to go out and grab the latest smartphone version fresh off the rack, holding off between updates can greatly reduce your personal e-waste footprint. There are often minute differences between some models and with new versions coming out yearly or more, skipping a generation often won’t hinder our ability to complete the tasks needed.

Killing the Urge to Hoard

We’re all guilty of it…that drawer of obsolete electronic devices we just can’t bring ourselves to part with. After all, technology isn’t cheap. It’s easy to come up with excuses not to part with an expensive piece of tech, even if all it’s currently doing is collecting dust.

Perhaps that old phone is filled with photos you just haven’t gotten around to transferring to a new device. Or maybe it gives you peace of mind knowing you have a backup if something were to happen to your new tablet. Many worry about the security implications of selling or recycling an old laptop. How can you be sure that all your important personal data has been wiped completely?

Whatever the reasons, reusing or properly recycling these old electronics is one of the first steps we can take to help create a more circular economy for e-waste. Some items we may even be able to donate to schools or other organizations.

Urging Our Favorite Companies to Take Responsibility

Overall, the biggest shift that needs to happen is with the tech companies themselves. If top companies take the initiative with buyback, recycling, and refurbishing programs, this will make a tremendous impact on e-waste. Reaching out to our favorite companies or making a conscious effort to support more environmentally friendly companies will help push the industry in a more eco-friendly direction. Paving the way for a high tech future that doesn’t come at the cost of our planet’s precious resources.

A New Tomorrow

In conclusion, there are steps consumers and companies need to be taking now in order to balance our love of technology with consideration for our resources. By taking a less wasteful approach to tech and actively seeking out companies that refurbish and recycle, we can start making the shift to a more circular economy.


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