Sales of mobile phones could be expanded by implementing reuse and remanufacturing, a new study has suggested.
Produced by Green Alliance, the report A circular economy for smart devices suggests that new sales of laptops, tablets and mobile phones could be expanded while cutting the carbon footprint of device use by up to half.
By just keeping a smartphone in use for an additional year cuts its CO2 impact by 31%.
The report shows that devices up to five years old can be profitably recovered and resold in the UK, US and India. Already this trade of these products is worth $3 billion in the US alone.
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Six business models are identified by the report that companies could use to adapt to consumer preferences for lower cost, longer-lasting electronics and how reuse can bring the benefits of internet connected devices to new consumers in the developing world.
Options to extend the life of a phone includes software that identifies when a user upgrades to a new phone and finds its value on a range of resale sites, dispatches a prepaid envelope and automatically credits the users bank account.
This would help make the 28-125 million smartphones languishing in UK homes available for reuse.
Research shows that between 27% and 36% of consumers keep an old phone because they do not know what to do with it, and a further 17% are too lazy to get rid of them.
The report also suggests hardware companies can redesign their devices to capture the value of used parts. It shows that it is economic to pay workers in India to recover high value components like displays and cameras from existing devices and that redesign can make recovery cheaper.
Parts in a two-year old iPhone could be worth up to £170, nearly one third of the original sales value of the device.
The study also showed that devices are getting more carbon intensive, with the carbon footprint of the iPhone quadrupling in the last five years.
Green Alliance head of energy and resources Dustin Benton said: “Smartphones, tablets and laptops are spreading the benefits of internet access across the globe.
“But their production is increasingly carbon intensive, and rapid upgrades mean too many good devices end up abandoned in cupboards and desk drawers, before ending up as e-waste. If companies can make reuse easier, they can boost sales and cut environmental impact.”