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Study shows what consumers really think about recycling old devices

Ingram Micro Mobility - which works with the world’s largest and best known retailers, device manufacturers and operators, handling one in three mobile devices in the United States - has recently announced the results of its "Recycling Mobile Devices: A Consumer Awareness Study."

With nearly seven billion mobile subscriptions worldwide and climbing, the study aimed to gauge the market opportunity for sustainable alternatives. The study asked 1,000 U.S. consumers about their general awareness of how to properly recycle used devices, what incentives would increase the likelihood of recycling devices and their interest in purchasing used devices.

"The study reveals that half of U.S. adults are not certain about how to properly dispose of their used electronic devices," said Bashar Nejdawi, executive vice president, Ingram Micro and president, North America, Ingram Micro Mobility.

"Sharing these findings helps present a huge opportunity for consumers and the industry, as recycling used devices is profitable for both parties, while it significantly helps preserve our environment."

Device Recycling Incentives

When asked about incentives that would motivate their decision to turn in old electronics to be recycled, consumers reported both altruistic and self-interested incentives.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said knowing a device would go to a person in need or to a developing country would be enough of a motivating factor to turn in old devices. Interestingly, millennials (74 per cent) and 45-54 year olds (71 per cent) were slightly more likely to say that altruistic incentives would help them recycle.

Meanwhile, consumers also indicated a "free upgrade or discount on a new device" (63 per cent) and a "cash incentive or gift card" (62 per cent) as motivating incentives for recycling devices.

However, only nine per cent of those surveyed said they would recycle old devices without incentives. Of those who indicated no incentive was necessary, 23 per cent were seniors.

Barriers to Making Device Recycling a Habit

Despite the power of these incentives, significant barriers still exist to achieving the recycling mindset.

The majority (55 per cent) of those surveyed indicated concerns about clearing data and identity theft as barriers to recycling devices, followed by the lack of knowledge of where to turn in devices (45 per cent) and a preference to keep devices (43 per cent).

Among those surveyed, millennials and seniors were least concerned with data theft as a barrier to turning in a used device, while two-thirds of adults ages 45-54 said this was the biggest barrier to turning in old electronics.

Appetite for Used Products

When asked about purchasing used smartphones, tablets or wearable products, interest among consumers was only lukewarm.

Used products unappealing: Sixty-four per cent of respondents said they would be "unlikely" to purchase a certified-used electronic device such as a smartphone, tablet or wearable product, as opposed to a new product.

There was more willingness among millennials - consumers aged 18 to 34 - as nearly half said they would be "likely" to purchase a certified-used electronic device, compared to only 12 per cent of seniors (65 and older).

"A gap between device recycling and shorter mobile-device lifespans has been revealed," said Nejdawi. "While the survey shows a challenging landscape for the mobile industry in terms of consumer understanding about properly disposing used electronic devices, there are opportunities to educate consumers on incentives and the value of device recycling programs."