What happens to your old mobile device when you’re ready for an upgrade? In the past, most consumers would toss old devices in a drawer or throw them in the trash.
But times have changed. Even though consumers are holding onto their devices for about three years on average, maturing trade-in programs are creating a robust secondary market for mobile devices.
Studies show that 95% of adult Americans own a mobile phone of some kind. As adoption of other wireless devices like tablets and smartwatches continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to properly support the secondary market. When it comes to mobile devices avoiding landfills, the environmental benefits are the first thing that come to mind. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see there are both economic and social advantages to recycling and reusing mobile devices, too.
The Critical Need to Reduce Mobile Device e-Waste
In 2017, the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP) estimated 44.7M metric tons of e-waste generated in the previous year. Their latest report published in 2020 highlights that the situation has not improved. E-waste in 2019 had grown by 20% to 53.6M metric tons.
Across the Americas, there’s just a 9.4% collection rate for electronic devices. As a result, nearly 25% of the world’s e-waste (13.1 metric tons annually) comes from the United States, Canada, Central America, and South America.
This problem is entirely avoidable. With the right processes, we are able to unlock the environmental benefits of proper recycling and reuse of mobile devices. According to the EPA for every million cell phones recycled we recover:
- 35,000 pounds of copper
- 772 pounds of silver
- 75 pounds of gold
- 33 pounds of palladium
As mobile devices continue to play an increasingly critical role in society recycled materials will serve as a fundamental component of environmental sustainability.
Social Benefits of Increasing the Lifecycle of Mobile Devices
So, what happens when a device is traded in? If it is deemed to be in good working order, it is sold into the secondary market. Most often, the device ends up halfway around the world in the hands of someone who would otherwise not be able to afford a quality smartphone. Not only is the device critical for communications, but it could be necessary for banking, access to education, or for work.
It’s not just about large-scale social advantages. Giving mobile devices second and even third lives can drive down costs and make new and used devices more affordable for consumers. Even recycling can lead to cost advantages for consumers as manufacturers spend less on raw materials. When devices waste away in drawers and landfills, they are of no value to anyone. Rather, improper disposal and reuse result in harmful e-waste as well as missed opportunities for societal improvement.
Economic Benefits of Decreasing Mobile Device Waste
In the past, businesses neglected proper recycling in the mobile device industry because they couldn’t see the economic opportunity. While green operations and social improvement should be benefit enough, the reality is that money is a powerful motivator. Embracing a circular economy model for mobile devices isn’t just an idealistic means of achieving sustainability. It provides tangible, immediate economic benefits that can’t be ignored.
Our trade-in trends report showcases the kinds of economic opportunities you can expect from trade-in programs. In 2020, $2.117 billion was returned to consumer's hands through mobile device trade-in programs. Additionally, by 2024, the mobile devices' secondary market is expected to be worth $65 billion—more than triple the $20 billion it was worth in 2017.
Put the Infrastructure in Place to Properly Repurpose and Recycle Mobile Devices
The only way to unlock all three benefits of extending mobile devices' lifespan is to have the proper infrastructure. That means building out an efficient trade-in program that includes comprehensive device collection and reverse logistics. There are many nuances to the secondary market for mobile devices, and if it were so easy to create a circular economy, it would have been done years ago. However, with the right tools and processes, you can do your part to achieve the environmental, social, and economic benefits of proper recycling and reuse.
If you want to learn how HYLA Mobile, an Assurant company, can help you create the most effective trade-in program, contact us today.