Refurbished phones are becoming more popular amongst consumers who are looking for cheaper and more environmentally-friendly devices.
In the UK, Vodafone found in a survey that 32% of British consumers already own a refurbished phone, while another 24% plan to buy one in the future. Nearly half of the respondents were looking to save money on their device, with some predicting that they could save up to about $177 (140 UK pounds) by buying a refurbished cellphone, according to an article in TechRadar Pro.
Given how frequently we cycle through new phones, switching to refurbished models is good news for the planet. At the moment, the average phone user buys a new smartphone every 18 months, with an estimated 5.3 billion phones becoming e-waste in 2022.
Mostly, these old phones go straight into the trash or are left to clutter our homes, according to a report in the WEEE Forum.
This means that we are essentially hoarding a treasure trove of precious metals, which are not renewable, in our homes or sending them to landfill.
The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) estimated that if all the 1.4 billion phones bought in 2021 had been refurbished or sourced from earlier models, it would have saved over 374 million tons of precious metals, which could have been used to make new devices.
This would also reduce each phone’s impact on the environment. At the moment, we are producing more harmful pollution during the manufacturing process for new phones than we need to.
ADEME estimated that, over its two-year lifespan, a refurbished phone accounts for just under a tenth of the planet-warming carbon dioxide produced by a brand-new smartphone.
But not all refurbished phones are created equally. Redditors pointed out that the Nokia 3315 will only have 2G capability, which could render it useless as more network providers switch off their 2G and 3G networks.
“These are only 2G so you’d have to use it on a carrier that still has 2G towers, and I’m not sure those exist in America anymore,” one Redditor cautioned. “In Europe and Asia they’re still kicking though.”
“Factory sealed? Why does it feel like this belongs in a museum?” another user wrote.
“That phone will outlast you and everyone you know. It is eternal,” another replied.
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