In 2021, almost 15 years after the release of the first iPhone, there is nothing our smartphones can’t do – except last longer than two years. The telecommunications giant Orange and CompaRecyle want to increase phones’ lifespans to 10 years by getting more people to sell their old phones to get refurbished and to satisfy a growing market demand.
Recycling products is not a new or even a revolutionary idea. Many people recycle their glass bottles, their plastic packaging and their spare cardboard. In fact, in recent years, the increasing pressure of taking action against our climate change has incited more and more people to increase their recycling habits.
While recycling everyday packaging has become second nature for many, recycling electronic products has not. Part of this is related to the fact that people think it is harder to recycle them than traditional packaging even though many recycling centers in Luxembourg have dedicated sections for electronic waste.
Gaël Brouard, CEO and founder of CompaRecyle suggests that the full picture looks slightly different. Although the infrastructure to recycle, return and refurbish electronics – and especially old mobile phones – leaves room for improvement, the discrepancy between what people want and actually do is a central issue too.
Indeed, although Gaël says that “60% of the consumers say that they would like to and are ready to buy refurbished products,” most of them do not sell their phones to be refurbished in the first place.
Orange and CompaRecycle want to change this by incentivising customers to sell their old phones and electronics. With 150 million old mobiles phones gathering dust in people’s cupboards in France, Belgium and Luxembourg alone, the untapped potential appears massive.
Getting customers to sell their mobile phones is just a first step. The biggest step is setting up more and improved refurbishment facilities in Europe.
Currently, out of every three refurbished phones sold in Europe, two were refurbished either in the US or China. This is not just bad for business, it is also bad for the environment. Indeed, whereas refurbishing a mobile phone in China emits 60Kg of CO2, refurbishing it locally would only emit 8Kg of CO2. For reference: producing a new phone emits around 100Kg of CO2.
Both Orange and CompaRecylce have seized upon this opportunity and are eager to expand the market for refurbished phones and electronic products. Indeed, by 2030 Orange expects that 30% of their customers will need to sell their phones to be refurbished in order to satisfy the market demand.
Editorial note: The quotes in this article were translated from French. For the full conversation in French, check out our podcast with Jean-Sébastien Berneyron, Sales Manager at Orange Luxembourg and Gaël Brouard, CEO and founder of CompaRecycle.