Compass Intelligence estimates there are more than 278 million deactivated or idle mobile phones (smartphone, feature and basic) in the US, with only an estimated 10 percent being recycled annually. In a recent survey, we found that 55% of the customers polled said they had at least one deactivated phone on hand. However, when asked how many devices they had traded-in or recycled in the past six months, 72% of the respondents said none. The main reason: they were unaware the mobile phones could be recycled, sold back or traded-in. In fact, less than half of those surveyed were unaware that buyback and recycling programs even existed.
Efforts to expand communication and incentives are underway, including new and improved buyback or trade-in programs. For instance, many of the larger wireless carriers announced new partnerships in regards to their trade-in programs in 2011. In addition, a new group—dubbed the Device Renewal Forum (DRF) —wasformed to improve communications about buyback programs and standardize the way carriers deal with refurbished devices. With support from Sprint, Brightstar, eRecycling Corps, ModusLink Global Solutions, and CDMA Development Group (CDG), the DRF seeks to develop a standard for refurbished devices and encourage device recycling.
But wireless carriers are not the only companies out there interfacing with the public in this regard. Amazon and Best Buy both have buyback programs. Gazelle said that it received a used mobile phone every six seconds during the morning of the iPhone 4s launch. Device makers like Apple have started buying back devices directly from consumers as well. There are also e-recyclers such as ecoATM that allow a customer to conduct a self-service buyback at a drop-off station.
It is evident that the industry is in the midst of an evolution in the area of reuse and recycling. The carriers, e-recyclers and other recommerce vendors involved in this space need to focus on innovative ways to educate and encourage consumers (and businesses) to embrace these programs and trade-in, sell back or recycle their deactivated devices. It’s time to move them out of the junk drawers and into the stores.
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- New Subscription: Device Reuse and Recycling
Kate Pearce is a Research Strategist and Sr. Consultant at Compass Intelligence. Look for new research coming soon from Compass Intelligence in the area of reuse and recycling of mobile devices.