From Trash to Treasure
PUBLISHED: 15.10, 17 May 2023
Did you know when you reach the end of your time with your smartphone, it can mean a shiny ‘new’ device for someone else? Spring’s founders tell us why tech ownership and sustainability are changing and how there’s money to be made
Talking about sustainability and technology can sometimes feel complicated. How can we play our part in creating a circular economy in tech at a time when the industry is advancing faster than ever? When more options to upgrade and buy new devices are released year after year? It’s natural to want to keep up as technology moves forward, but it does mean with so many new devices released so often, we need to start thinking about the tech we leave behind.
How can you ensure your now second-hand phone, for example, becomes another’s new treasure? The answer is surprisingly simple.
First, why should we care about what happens to our devices?
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Mobile Magazine, in 2013 almost 970 million smartphones were sold worldwide. Five years later, that figure exceeded 1.55 billion with the number of people possessing smartphones increasing every year. Billions of these mean an unsustainable amount of electronic waste, or e-waste, is being created when people upgrade.
What can you do to help when it’s time for an upgrade?
Rather than upgrading an iPhone every year or two and leaving your existing mobile to collect dust in a drawer – or simply adding it to the ever-growing collection of e-waste which can’t be easily recycled – you can do something else. You can sell your phone and ensure it gets refurbished to extend its lifecycle, creating a circular economy for consumer tech, right from your own home. Your smartphone gets a second life with all its data wiped and its screen and battery refurbished. There’s little e-waste as a result and someone else gets a shiny pre-loved phone. Hurrah!
– Think and think again
Also, remember you can buy a refurbished phone or device too! You don’t always need to upgrade to the newest model just because. Ask yourself why you need to change phones: If it’s for the battery life or screen, a pre-loved model will have all these issues fixed and be cheaper too! A lot of upgrades also don’t have any major additions to them either so it’s worth doing your research before you buy, or re-buy.
– It all sounds a bit complicated…
It really isn’t! And this is where a company like Spring comes in. Spring buys your unused devices, refurbishes and resells them to prolong the lifecycle of the product, preventing them from becoming e-waste. “There is a constant churn of devices caught in the relentless upgrade cycle created by manufacturers. This leaves behind mountains of e-waste while depleting valuable natural resources, all of which are all finite”, explain Spring’s founders Tom and James.
– FYI: e-waste really is bad for the planet
For those who don’t know, e-waste is one of the fastest-growing sources of waste and emissions on the planet. It accounts for around 70% of overall toxic waste, thanks to non-degradable minerals, heavy metals, and chemicals used in smartphone batteries. In short, it’s incredibly bad for our environment.
Why are some so reluctant to buy and sell pre-loved tech?
A few key things prevent people from buying pre-loved, either from a purchasing or selling point of view. To create a long-term ecosystem we need people to buy second-hand, but people also need to feed into it at the top too. They explain: “Part of that is helping people realise the value that their pre-loved technology has, so they understand the potential sitting in the back of their drawers!”
– Consumer trust is a big one
“For a long time, the only option to sell used technology was via schemes where the price and delivery system was unsustainable and the information you’d get about what happened to your phone when sold was minimal – if any new model is going to work, it has to be upfront and transparent,” they continue. “This is the basis of everything we do at Spring, from the padded, waterproof postal pouches which can be used up to 2,000 times, to the tech report that we provide to all of our users – we tell them the materials they’re saving from landfill by recirculating their tech – there are no unanswered questions, no one kept in dark.”
What do other companies need to do to play their part in a circular tech economy?
The crux of this is fully committing to sustainability targets and schemes, they agree. Many tech companies are now releasing annual sustainability reports and recently, Apple announced they will use 100% recycled cobalt by 2025. “This is a great start, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Using recycled is a critical stage in creating a circular economy for sustainable tech consumption. Equally, repairing existing phones is crucial to reduce manufacturing demands. This is something other brands aren’t making easy, whether for companies or people at home – and that needs to change.”
Whether you’re about to say farewell to your existing smartphone or looking to explore the pre-loved market for the first time, Spring can help you on your way. So start rooting around those desk drawers!