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Refurbished Gadgets: The Key to Circular Economy Shift

Technology has blended into everyone’s life, making it easier and more convenient than ever before. A device that was once used for a simple phone call has evolved into an indispensable part of human life; the most eminent source of entertainment, social connections and income generation.

Yes, we’re talking about the ‘smartphone’ that is serving as the mainstay of social interactions.

The consumer markets have opened up for the OEMs as they keep luring the users to regularly upgrade their lifestyle with the flashy new versions of devices. However, what is not getting thought of is the effect of this wasteful practice on the planet, with heaps of electronic waste, are getting generated from discarded gadgets and smartphones.

The massive amount of forgotten devices

It is estimated that around 3 lakh double-decker buses full of electronic waste are getting generated across the world, with smartphones alone contributing to around 10% of the total. These 50+ million tonnes of e-waste are forecasted to reach a staggering 75+ million tonnes by 2030. Asia contributes almost half of the e-waste, with our own India being the 5th largest producer.

On the other hand, with the lack of organised methods for collecting e-waste, the process of recycling is comparatively slower with only about 20% of devices being recycled. The time has come to actively spread awareness on lowering the impact of e-waste on the planet and encourage companies which are promoting a shift towards a circular economy. After all, we already have an advanced level of technology to refurbish used electronic devices and introduce them back into the market as refurbished gadgets.

A circular economy is a well-developed framework that prioritises recycling and reuse of products as a meaningful step towards mitigating the impact of waste. The wider adoption of this will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Embracing refurbished products

However, even though the technology exists the use of refurbished devices has not gathered much pace in our country. We are primarily oriented towards purchasing products that come directly from the production facilities of the OEMs. The reasons for such consumer behaviour, though also guided by lack of awareness, is not always misplaced.

Once a smartphone falls out of the warranty period and needs replacement, a user would sell it to a ‘second-hand gadget dealer’, who tries to introduce it back to the market on an as-is basis. The new purchaser inherits the issues of the devices, which had prompted its sale in the first place. It becomes a matter of luck on how long the new owner can use the product before it dies.

This phenomenon is the reason why a consumer would only opt for a second-hand or ‘Purana’ phone if in dire need or as a second and optional gadget.

Refurbished smartphones, on the other hand, normally go through quality checks and a remediation process. Organisations who offer refurbished products normally (or are supposed to) vouch for the quality of their refurbishing process by adding a trust factor to the used smartphone. For e.g., if a 1-year guarantee is added to the refurbished product, it would mitigate the risk of the new purchaser to a great extent. As all the OEMs provide a similar level of warranty, the only difference between a new model and the refurbished one is the features introduced, which, in most cases, are hardly used by a common consumer.

Lastly, we also need a change in social mindset. As it stands today, a purchaser of a pre-owned device, refurbished or otherwise, is tagged as one with less financial capacity. Instead, a mature view may be to view the person as environmentally conscious, trying to save this planet from gathering more waste. Only then may we see a boost in the usage of refurbished products.

What’s next?

We need to come together to promote the usage of refurbished gadgets, especially smartphones. Responsible usage should weigh the features of new versions against the harmful impact they cause on the environment. It will be good to find the leaders of business and social communities to promote this through example.


(The author is Mr. Soumitra Gupta, CEO, XtraCove and the views expressed in this article are his own)


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