Smartphones are just about everywhere. They have become the indispensable electronic device, and the numbers back it up: More than 1.4 billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2015.
But there’s a flip side to this incredible purchasing trend: electronic waste. In the U.S. alone, more than 150 million smartphones are discarded annually. Consumers who are thrilled to dispose of the old to enjoy the new device and move on to a new one, may not realize how many devices end up in landfills, polluting anywhere between 1,200 to almost 5,000 gallons of ground water per device.
Tragedies, such as the polluted water supply in Flint, MI., have shed light on the importance of ensuring that ground water remains unpolluted.
Indeed, e-waste doesn’t even have to happen. There is money to be made and humanity can benefit from repurposing old devices. What could be better than saving the environment, benefiting humanity and making money at the same time?
At HYLA, we have invented a way to do exactly that.
Our products and services allow mobile operators, OEMs and retailers to offer mobile device trade-in programs so consumers can trade-in their older devices in exchange for money. These devices are then tested, data cleared and graded. The working devices are either used to fulfill insurance and warranty obligations, or shipped to emerging markets where they can still serve a few years of good use for consumers.
While Internet access seems like a birthright in the U.S. and other developed nations, about than 60% of the world has no access online whatsoever. The only feasible way for them to get access is through mobile devices, and a push to put devices in those peoples’ hands is underway. Charitable activities by companies like Facebook and Internet.Org, for example, are focused on connecting the unconnected—bringing Internet access to billions of “unconnected” people.
The non-working or older devices are responsibly recycled to extract valuable precious metals and other resources. Apple disclosed that last year it extracted $40M worth of gold from recycled used mobile phones and computers. There is more gold in one pound of electronics than there is in one pound of gold ore.
But many of these materials end up as e-waste and pollute the earth, and they drive a flourishing black market. Nearly 90% of e-waste is illegally dumped and traded, according to a recent report by the U.N. Environment Program. And as Electronic Recyclers International observed, illegal traffickers pose as legitimate disposal services and dump tons of e-waste in developing nations that have yet to establish protocols and laws.
For most people in the developed world, environmental issues are of little to no interest, andrecycling used mobile phones is not considered a priority.
HYLA’s business model focuses on creating a win-win-win for everyone in the eco-system. Consumers win because they get money for their used mobile phone when upgrading to a new device. Carriers, retailers and OEMs win because these devices provide tangible and intangible benefits for them in the form of lower cost of serving insurance or cash from extracted precious metals. Consumers in the emerging world win, as they get access to used, high-end devices like iPhones and Samsung Galaxys for a fraction of the price, changing lives.
Ultimately, the environment wins, as fewer devices end up in landfills, and fewer devices need to be manufactured.