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Spring cleaning old devices: What we can do to help

Even though we may be in the midst of spring, for many of us there are still tell-tale signs that we’ve endured a long, cold winter.

For instance, have you stored your winter gloves away with the coming of a new season. More importantly, did you “put away” your older, unused electronics?

Unlike the gloves, you’ll probably never use last year’s smartphone again. Unfortunately, consumers and IT professionals alike, have overflowing junk drawers full of such devices. And worse yet, many of these old electronics end up in landfills.

So, why do consumers hang on to or improperly dispose of so many used devices? And, how can the technology industry help alter this behaviour? Finding the answers to these questions was the premise of Ingram Micro Mobility’s recent “Recycling Mobile Devices: A Consumer Awareness Study (opens in new tab).”

With so many recycling and refurbishing options available, the fate of the landfill doesn’t need to happen. Here are a few things IT pros can do to help:

  1. Reduce Recycling Fears

The study found that half of those polled are uncertain about properly disposing of used electronic devices. When you consider just how many devices are overflowing in junk drawers, this finding is significant.

Why device recycling is avoided is even more interesting. Data privacy and identity theft were consumers’ main concerns, according to the study, followed by a lack of knowledge on where to return devices. Although millennials were less concerned with data theft, two-thirds of adults ages 45-54 said this was a major barrier.

To put consumers’ minds at ease about security concerns and identity theft, the best thing to do is reset the device back to its original factory settings in order to clear all personal information. And consumers’ ability to physically clear the information to original factory settings themselves can also provide further assurance that their data is safely removed.

Not all devices make it simple to wipe a device, however, which is why manufacturers should update their devices to make this option easier for consumers to find and use. Network operators and other industry professionals can also help consumers through the process to provide the comfort and assurance they need. Lastly, the industry as a whole could better publicise this option to reduce fears and encourage recycling. Even posting the instructions on various online channels could be effective.

  1. Help Consumers Better Understand Refurbished-Device Value

Many consumers aren’t interested in purchasing used devices, such as smartphones, tablets or wearables. In fact, according to the Ingram Micro Mobility study, 64 per cent of consumers said they would be unlikely to purchase a certified-used electronic device as opposed to a new product.

This isn’t a big surprise, though, considering that more affordable versions of the hottest devices are launched every year, with network operator programs that make these latest versions even more financially attainable.

However, what does come as a surprise to most consumers is how the older, discarded devices can have useful second lives. For one, carriers can repurpose them for insurance programs to provide customers with an adequate backup while their own phone is being repaired, and they can also be sold to emerging markets at a reasonable price.

  1. Promote Recycling

Consumers’ motivation for turning in old electronics devices is both altruistic and self-interested. The study found, for instance, that nearly two-thirds of consumers would be more inclined to turn in older models if they knew the devices would go to a person in need.

Additionally, consumers indicated that free upgrades, device discounts, and cash or store gift cards would also be motivators for handing in used devices to be recycled.

Network operators have been providing plans that require consumers to turn in their older phone in order to receive the latest model for a while now. These types of programs help eliminate electronic waste while creating a network operator profit center by shipping the older devices to a distributor for recycling or distributing the devices overseas. These programs also allow consumers to receive a new device faster without having to pay full retail cost.

For devices not tied to a network operator program, consumers can take advantage of a number of buyback websites. An online search can also pinpoint the best time to sell devices to get top dollar – usually right before a new version is launched.

Additionally, there are programs for turning in older devices to benefit those in need in developing countries. This option allows consumers to help contribute toward a good cause, while clearing out the junk drawer.

Once consumers have every picture, MP3, and other valuable and personal data off their older devices, the next steps to recycling or refurbishing those unwanted devices should be free of confusion and concern.

By helping consumers break through these barriers, yesterday’s devices can responsibly live on without contributing to landfill waste. Beyond spreading the word, IT professionals can also live by example, because let’s face it – we have a few drawers to clean out, too.

Bashar Nejdawi is President of Ingram Micro Mobility (opens in new tab), North America.