Every year the climate and environmental crisis becomes ever more severe and Earth Day takes on extra significance. The annual event brings together millions of people worldwide to support the environment and highlight the action needed to save our planet.
In honor of Earth Day, we want to showcase how we enable our customers in the mobile industry to maximize its sustainability efforts. By repurposing, redistributing, and recycling pre-owned devices, we are helping operators, OEMS, retailers, and insurance providers to contribute to a much more sustainable future.
The e-waste epidemic
According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, 53.6 M metric tons of electronic waste was generated in 2019. To put this number into context, it is the equivalent of 2,072 space shuttles dumped into landfills every single day for a year. With e-waste contributing to 70% of our overall toxic waste, it is more important than ever to consider the lifespan of smartphones, and how we can work to reduce the number of devices that end up in landfills.
Over the past 12 years we have been working tirelessly to give pre-owned devices a second or even third life. Since 2009, Assurant’s Trade-in and Upgrade business has repurposed 100 million devices and diverted 20,412 metric tons of e-waste from landfills.
Extending the lifecycle of smartphones
Trade-in and upgrade programs allow consumers to trade-in their old devices and use this to offset the cost of their new device. Our own data shows that the average age of a smartphone at trade-in is three years. And while this will seem “old” in mature markets, these devices still have plenty of life in them and can be repurposed and redistributed around the world—whether that is to fulfill warranty purposes in mature markets, or to provide connectivity and a new life in emerging markets.
In fact, thanks to Assurant’s Trade-in and Upgrade program, it has connected tens of millions of unconnected or poorly connected individuals around the world.
The importance of preserving materials
For the pre-owned devices that cannot be repurposed and resold in new markets, they should be responsibly recycled. Yet the value of reusable material in one year’s worth of e-waste is a staggering $57 billion. Again, to provide context, more than 100 countries worldwide have a GDP that is lower than this amount.
Manufacturing a single smartphone requires 24KG of ore, 100L of water, and 20.5 G of cyanide to be mined. When you consider the vast number of smartphones that are manufactured every single year, it is easy to see the environmental damage the mobile industry is having on our planet.
Recycling devices prevents precious metals from being discarded in landfills and reduces the need to mine for more. In 2020, Assurant recycled 1.5 million smartphones, resulting in 52,500lbs of copper, 1,158lbs of silver, 113lbs of gold, and 50lbs of palladium being recovered.
Saving the planet, one device at a time
As technological innovation continues, preservation and prevention within the mobile industry is becoming more and more important. And operators, OEMs, and retailers have an important role to play in delivering a sustainable future.
By encouraging consumers to use trade-in and upgrade programs, we can ensure that devices are given a second, or even third life, and bring connectivity to those that truly need it. And for the devices that cannot be repurposed, it is critical to ensure that these devices are responsibly recycled, to avoid sending them to landfills.
Delivering this messaging and achieving this vision is not just a message for Earth Day, but is something we strive to achieve every day.