Progress on recycling smartphones, but more to do


BARCELONA: Smartphone producers have promised to do higher when it comes to recycling and reconditioning their product, responding to strain from environmental campaigners.

AFP talked to delegates on the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to learn how a lot progress had been made, and what more may very well be executed.

Where does the market stand?

After a robust begin firstly of the 2010s, the sector has picked up momentum over the previous couple of years, each by way of reconditioned fashions that may be put again on the market, and within the recycling of the plastics and uncommon metals that go into their manufacture.

According to Persistence Market Research, 11% of smartphones offered worldwide are reconditioned fashions, a decrease fee than different digital merchandise but one that’s nonetheless rising.

That upward pattern is due to “improvements in the methods of repairing smartphones, grading, collection, and online/offline selling”, mentioned PMR.

“More and more players are putting recycling programmes in place because of the regulatory pressure and pressure from consumers,” mentioned Thomas Husson, principal analyst at Forrester.

“We are still at low rates, but it is starting to take off,” he added.

But that progress will not be sufficient for environmental activists.

“Of all the electronic waste only 20% is recycled, when in reality we could recover much more,” mentioned Claudia Bosch of the Catalan social justice marketing campaign group Setem.

“We could do a lot more,” mentioned Bosch, one of many organisers of the Mobile Social Congress, operating in parallel with the primary occasion, which is focussed on human rights points and sustainability.

Who are the gamers?

A number of corporations have sprung up over the previous few years and moved into the recycling market.

They embody Back Market, which sells refurbished digital items; Fairphone, which makes what’s says is the world’s most repairable smartphone; and Recommerce, which sells reconditioned smartphones, tablets and video games consoles.

Now even the main gamers within the smartphone business are getting into this a part of the market. Apple and Samsung have each dedicated to rising their share of recycled merchandise and now have their very own recycling operations.

“The capacity to recycle smartphones has become an important factor for all manufacturers, but also for operators,” mentioned Husson.

“Their image is at stake and everyone is trying to set themselves apart.”

Thus at Barcelona, British community supplier Vodaphone introduced a partnership take care of Recommerce for the recycling of its previous fashions.

And final 12 months, French operator Orange dedicated to elevating the share of reconditioned telephones offered in its outlets from 2-10%.

What are the prospects?

Industry analysts count on the sector to see robust development on the again of rising calls for from customers for “green” merchandise. The slowing fee of actually revolutionary options in smartphones additionally makes the reconditioned market more engaging.

Industry analysts Mordor Intelligence expects the reconditioned smartphone market to develop 10% a 12 months from now till 2027, with a breakthrough within the Asian market, significantly in India and Indonesia.

Similarly, Persistence Market Research expects turnover within the cell market to leap from the US$49.4bil (RM206.81bil) recorded in 2020, to US$143.8bil (RM602.01bil) in 2031.

What is holding the market again?

Even if analysts are optimistic, there are a variety of obstacles in the best way, together with technical points, equivalent to the gathering of waste.

For if recycling is to be efficient, there wants to be appreciable organisation behind it, mentioned Husson.

But different points might make customers hesitate.

“More and more reconditioned telephones are sold with guarantees,” mentioned Husson. “But there is always concern among consumers, who have doubts over the performance of the product.”

And the business practices of the producers and the operators themselves do not at all times favour the reconditioning market, argues Bosch.

“There is a culture of consumerism which is constantly bombarding us with new offers, new innovations…

“There is a great deal of marketing that pushes us to throw things away, to change them for new ones.”

That aggressive advertising and marketing is one thing of a paradox given the makes an attempt by the primary market gamers to promote an environmental message.

“If we really care about the planet, we have to focus on the durability of the product,” mentioned Husson.

But that, he added, went in opposition to the dominant financial mannequin, by which producers get customers to frequently change their telephones with new fashions, a apply usually subsidised by the operators themselves. – AFP

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