Refurbished IT Devices are Better for the Environment
What’s better for the environment: buying new IT devices or buying refurbished? How much of an impact does it make to buy refurbished electronics?
Organizations in the United States and abroad looking to reduce IT expenditures are increasingly looking to buying refurbished IT devices rather than buying brand new. While cost is an important factor, IT teams and executives must also consider factors such as environmental impact. Are refurbished electronics better for the environment?
One way for organizations to reap the benefits of cost savings and environmental sustainability is to take advantage of IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) services from a reputable ITAD company. ITAD is more than just recycling old IT assets; rather, a good ITAD provider can help an organization achieve better environmental stewardship through circular economy principles that seek to minimize and reduce e-waste while also protecting sensitive data and saving money.
The Cost of Buying Brand New IT Devices
There are a lot of costs to buying brand new IT devices beyond the sticker price tag you might find on a supplier’s website. Depending on who’s evaluating the cost, the true cost may seem different. Supply chain and procurement might see the purchase price and delivery costs, IT might see the cost in time and labor to install and calibrate new infrastructure, and accounting might break down the cost as a depreciable asset in their ledger.
To the planet, however, the cost comes from extracting raw materials and the energy consumed in the processing of microchips and other components. These costs aren’t often advertised, and the methods of procuring certain rare metals used in modern electronics are outright morally questionable, to say the least.
Moreover, once modern electronics have reached the end of their lifespan – actually, more often than not, before reaching their end of life – they often end up being dumped in landfills, polluting ground soil, water, and air while wreaking havoc on animal ecosystems.
Carbon Emissions of New IT Devices
What is the impact that new IT devices have on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? The average smartphone produces around 55 kg of carbon emissions to manufacture or about 26 weeks’ worth of laundry.
Whether as a private individual or on behalf of a business, we often neglect these sorts of figures since they’re invisible to us once the product has been received and put into use. It should be plain to see, however, that the amount of carbon emitted by smartphones (and that’s just one of many modern electronic devices we practically all use privately and in a business capacity) is staggeringly high.
With a population of nearly 336 million in the United States and a labor force participation rate of around 62.1% to reduce the very young and elderly (although many of them may have a smartphone), that’s conservatively around 209 million Americans who very likely have one or more smartphones. In brief, the CO2e from smartphones alone account for a massive amount of pollution in the US.
Two Key Reasons for Excessive E-Waste
Not only is it bad enough that modern electronics require massive amounts of raw materials, many of which are rare earth minerals only found in impoverished countries with lax or nonexistent child labor laws, but they also produce huge amounts of emissions in order to make it to shops and in neatly-packed boxes in a supplier’s warehouse.
Why do businesses throw out so many electronics? There are two possible reasons, which may not be mutually exclusive and indeed may overlap: a mass consumerist lifestyle (society) and planned obsolescence (manufacturers).
A study from the European Environment Agency found that most electronics are discarded before their designed lifetime, which may or may not be due to planned obsolescence. In other words, it may be possible that individuals are choosing to discard perfectly good electronics before their end of life, or it could be that certain manufacturers are designing their products to fail.
The average lifespan of electronics in the study was found to be 2.3 years shorter than the desired lifetime and the designed lifetime, which means that people tend to throw away electronics well before they may have wanted to or before their expected end of life according to the product’s design.
Why Buying Refurbished Electronics is Better for the Environment
Considering the “take, make, waste” behavior of modern manufacturers still using a linear economy model and mass consumerism, as well as the negative environmental consequences of perpetuating these behaviors, what can be done to improve the situation?
Buying refurbished electronics is an excellent alternative and one that has far better consequences for the environment, and it’s also a great way to save money. But what, if any, environmental impacts does buying refurbished have compared to buying new?
The answer is a lot more challenging to quantify, but essentially a refurbished IT device has zero CO2e for raw resource extraction and processing simply because the product has already been made. Therefore, the only emissions that matter are those created during the refurbishment process and from the device being in use.
The processing and manufacturing of modern smartphones, to stick with the same example, take the lion’s share of carbon emissions. Anywhere from around 85-95% of all carbon emissions throughout the lifetime of a smartphone come from the manufacture, with the remainder being generated during regular usage. The short and simple answer is that a refurbished smartphone is far better for the environment than buying brand new.
How ITAD Reduces E-Waste
Electronics recycling is a great alternative to other methods of disposal, but ITAD goes further than simply recycling (although recycling is a valid option, too). An environmentally friendly ITAD Company such as Wisetek instead optimizes the methods of data disposal based on the product’s condition and lifespan, potential ROI as a refurbished device, and ultimately recycling e-waste if all other options are exhausted. Data Destruction or Hard Drive Disposal does not always need to lead to physical destruction of the device; instead, refurbishment and remarketing can be more profitable after all sensitive data has been thoroughly destroyed.
Wisetek’s ITAD services include Data Centre Services such as Data Centre Decommissioning, secure data destruction, and many other IT Solutions. Devices that can be refurbished and remarketed are sold through the Wisetek Market.
Which is Better: New IT Devices or Refurbished?
The answer may have been intuitive to you from the beginning, but by now it should be abundantly clear that refurbished electronics are far better for the environment than buying brand new. Wisetek’s Circular Economy model strives to benefit the environment and to maximize ROI on redundant IT assets for our clients, who in turn reap the benefits of better environmental sustainability and meeting strategic CSR goals for environmental stewardship.
Choose Wisetek for Environmentally Friendly ITAD
Choose Wisetek for global solutions for global business operations. Our ITAD services are secure and professional. Wisetek operates a Zero-Landfill Policy designed to minimize needless e-waste and to benefit the environment.
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