April 22, 2018, marked the 48th anniversary of Earth Day. The day that we take a step back and think about how our actions impact the environment.
We said it last year, but Earth Day truly is more relevant than ever as we introduce more and more electronic devices to the world. Especially in the smartphone market, where secondary usage is the norm, we have to keep a closer eye on the device lifecycle.
That’s why Earth Day is so important to us at HYLA. As much as we want to help carriers and enterprises streamline their trade-in processes, we also want to guarantee that the device lifecycle is as environmentally-friendly as possible.
On this Earth Day, let’s reflect on the real impact of mobile devices on the environment (and what we can do to change things).
Leftover Devices Lead to e-Waste
Think about the sheer volume of mobile devices even just in the United States.
At the start of 2016, we identified 534 million active devices. By the end of 2016, 79 million of these devices went to trade-in programs and 329 million were still in use. However, 30 million were disposed of or lost, 56 million were kept as spares (often thrown in a drawer to be forgotten), and 40 million were given as hand-me-downs.
These numbers show just how vast the latent supply of pre-owned devices really is. The problem is that these devices often go on to contribute to e-waste—and only 20% of e-waste is properly collected/recycled.
As a result, the United Nations and International Telecommunications Union found that 49.3 million tons of e-waste was generated in 2016. For reference, that’s the equivalent of 13.4 lbs per person. Or, even more striking, the equivalent of 551 Washington Monuments.
This is precisely why Earth Day is so important. If we don’t start taking better care of e-waste, the environment will continue to suffer the consequences.
Device Manufacturing Has a Significant Impact, Too
It’s important to remember that environmental sustainability isn’t only about managing waste more effectively. We have to look at how manufacturing processes impact the environment, too.
Did you know that producing a single phone requires 34 kg of ore, 100 L of water, and 20.5 g of cyanide? With hundreds of millions of devices sold each year, the environmental impact of phone manufacturing just isn’t sustainable. Luckily, the EPA says that every million smartphones recycled yields:
- 35,000 lbs of copper
- 772 lbs of silver
- 75 lbs of gold
- And 33 lbs of palladium
The hurdle is properly managing the trade-in and recycling processes to ensure smartphones are given second, third, even fourth lives or disposed of properly. And that’s where we can help.
How HYLA Is Addressing Mobile Device Sustainability
The used smartphone market is expected to grow four times faster than the overall smartphone market and 10% of premium smartphones will go on to have 3 or 4 lives before being retired/recycled.
This is great news as long as we keep the trade-in/retirement processes environmentally-friendly. To address environmental sustainability, the core of what we do at HYLA positively impacts 14 of the 17 sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
The United Nations (UN) released its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. This created a vision for a world that, by 2030, would be: inclusive of all people; where there would be no poverty; action against climate change and its impact taken; and ensure that responsible consumption and production is common practice. The mobile industry is actively trying to make sustainable practice the norm. It was in fact one of the first industries to commit itself to minimizing environmental degradation as part of the UN’s SDGs. One way the mobile industry is helping to achieve these SDGs is through the responsible recycling of mobile devices.
Through our role in maximizing the device lifecycle, we’ve been able to:
- Repurpose 48 million devices
- Save 59.4 billion gallons of ground water from e-Waste pollution
- Divert 6,500 tons of e-Waste from landfills
- Bring connectivity to 34.4 million “unconnected” consumers
- And give $3.8 billion back to consumers through device trade-ins
Thanks to trade-in and buyback programs powered by HYLA Mobile, millions of devices can be recycled and redistributed into the market to prevent environmental damage. Carriers are proudly offering mobile device trade-in programs, recycling programs, and are redistributing lightly used devices to deserving consumers. And the good news is that the increasingly environmentally aware consumer is taking advantage of these programs to discard devices in the most environmentally friendly way. The mobile industry has already begun to make sustainability a priority, but there is still a long way to go.
We’re proud to reflect on these achievements on Earth Day, but the mission is far from over. If you want to learn more about our green device lifecycle management, contact us today, download our latest infographic for Earth Day 2018.