Western society is a throwaway society. It’s a sad but true fact of life and nowhere is this more apparent than with electronics. In Europe 100 million phones are thrown away each year, with an overwhelming amount of them ending up incinerated or in a landfill. Thirty million computers meet a similar grim fate in the USA, putting toxic electronic waste into the soil and carbon emissions into our atmosphere. The constant clamour for new tech hits us hard in our pockets but hits our planet even harder.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Tech companies have no interest in putting this right but you can have a huge impact by breaking free from the shiny new chains of quick consumption and the corporate chants of “Brand new! Brand new!”. Here we take a look at some of the main reasons why buying refurbished should be the default and not the alternative.
Saving you a packet
The cause of reducing global waste is reason enough to switch to refurbished tech, but certainly saving a wad of cash in the process is no drawback. A quick look at Back Market reveals the impressive savings that are there to be had, with up to 70% off the price brand new. You could pick up a MacBook Pro Retina from just a few years ago for £660 (a 55% discount), an iPhone X for £400 (a 42% discount) or even an iPhone 11, barely a year old, for £579 (an 18% discount). Everything sold on Back Market is refurbished to perfect working order and meticulously tested and verified, with new batteries added if they are under 80% original capacity. You also get a 12-month warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee if you change your mind.
It’s not just about the price-tag either (as Jessie J would remind us) – by buying refurbished products you’re opting out of the toxic cycles of spending encouraged by big tech companies, who egg on consumers to spend, spend, spend on the latest model of phone or laptop. This all just perpetuates the process of planned obsolescence and ‘dead-end economy’. We prefer things more circular.
Buying refurbished gives you the chance to take a step back from the relentless roll-out of marginally improved technology that no-one can keep up with anyway. Away from the glitzy keynote events and slick marketing campaigns of the big tech firms, you can make a zen-like assessment of whether you really need that fifth additional smartphone camera or yet another additional million pixels.
Costing the Earth
This toxic tech spending cycle isn’t just costing consumers either – it’s costing the planet as well. According to the UN, the world is piling up as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste every year – the equivalent of over 250 billion new iPhone 12s, enough for each person 30 times over. Add to that the fact that only 20% of this waste is properly recycled, meaning the rest is left to pollute our soil and our atmosphere. Lots of electronics contain rare raw materials such as gold, platinum, cobalt and lithium, which is often lost for good in landfills. Indeed, it is thought that around 7% of the world’s gold is contained in electronic waste, with more and more of it having to be mined to satisfy the thirst for more production while it lies there among old coke cans and carrier bags.
Getting these resources back is a tricky process, but you can help ensure they never end up there in the first place. Buying refurbished products keeps these precious metals and electronic waste out of the soil, reducing the need to extract more and more from the earth. For every listing on Back Market, just under the (often huge) discount you’re getting, we let you know about an equally important saving: electronic waste. This is your contribution to tackling dangerous levels of consumption that are so damaging to our planet.
A revolution in refurbished tech would have a huge impact on carbon emissions as well. Up to 80% of a smartphone’s carbon footprint comes from its production rather than its use, so by giving an old phone a new lease of life you are cutting out the lion’s share of your phone’s environmental impact in one fell swoop.
Helping community businesses
Buying refurbished also helps small businesses, which, during the global pandemic, need your help more than ever. The exciting tech products we list at Back Market are refurbished to the highest of standards by innovative and enterprising small companies, who go through rigorous screening processes to join us. Every refurbished gadget you buy will contribute to a local business somewhere rather than one of the huge multinational tech companies, with the money spent staying in the community instead of being siphoned off to a tax haven.
One value that is missing from modern Western society (at the risk of sounding like your Gran) is being able to make do with what you have, mend things, make your own, repair and refurbish. We may have temporarily lost some of these skills over a few generations but they are on their way back.
We have to usher in a new era of more environmentally conscious consumption and more ethical companies, with patched-up cardigans instead of fast fashion and refurbished tech instead of the latest new model. The satisfaction of doing it yourself, doing less with more or giving something a new lease of life is hugely underrated. And while you may not be able to refurbish a smartphone yourself, by buying refurbished technology you are contributing to a more circular economy that benefits us all, individually and collectively.