Giving smartphones and tablets a »second life«

Press release / March 27, 2018

A new study project of Fraunhofer UMSICHT shows: the refurbishing of IT and communication devices for a second operating life makes a significant contribution to the protection of both the climate and resources.

“The reuse of IT devices leads to a reduction in the use of resources and contributes to the protection of the climate.”
© ALBA Group
“The reuse of IT devices leads to a reduction in the use of resources and contributes to the protection of the climate.”

New smartphones and tablets are launched in increasingly shorter intervals. Thus, their product life cycles develop. However, for most of the applications and most of the users the technology doesn’t have to be obsolete. A second operating life can make sense – and protect the environment. The professional refurbishing of a single smartphone saves about 14 kilograms primary resources and 58 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. The one-off reconditioning of a single tablet saves a total of 58 kilograms of primary resources and also reduces the emissions of a climate-damaging gases by 139 kilograms. This was the conclusion reached by the Fraunhofer Institute of Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) in a study project that was commissioned by Interseroh. Since no details on device composition were available from many manufacturers, the experts at the Fraunhofer largely used data from the company Apple for their study.

The survey has been published on the occasion of the Global Recycling Day which is being held by the world recycling association, the BIR, this Sunday, 18th March 2018. In the study project, the Fraunhofer researchers confirm the positive environmental impact of the reconditioning and reuse of IT devices offered by Interseroh compared with buying a new product.

Affordable solution for customers

Last year, in Germany alone, consumers purchased approximately 24 million smartphones and 6.6 million tablets. In addition to this, old devices are being replaced by new ones at increasingly short intervals. “If one considers the data calculated by Fraunhofer for all smartphones purchased in Germany last year – regardless of the brand – it is possible to calculate that their refurbishing alone is able to save some 1.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to the annual emissions from a city the size of Heilbronn,” explains Jan Höschel, Director of the ReUse Business Center of INTERSEROH Dienstleistungs GmbH. “For our customers, the refurbishing constitutes is a very affordable solution. Its positive impact on both our climate and resources is huge.“

The Fraunhofer scientists previously analyzed the environmental impact of the reuse of PCs and notebooks on behalf of Interseroh in the year 2017. If the results of both study projects are combined, in the year 2017, the savings due to IT refurbishment by Interseroh amounted to more than 11,500 tonnes of primary resources and some 7,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. Such a saving of harmful greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from about 4,200 passenger cars. The experts’ survey was based on the assumption that new and reconditioned smartphones and tablets are used for two years, while PCs and notebooks are used for three and a half years.

Efficient loop economy

“The reuse of IT devices leads to a reduction in the use of resources and contributes to the protection of the climate,” explained Dr. Markus Hiebel, Director of the Department Sustainability and Resources Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT.“Our survey demonstrates the importance of the targeted extension of product lifecycles along the path to achieving an efficient loop economy.”

The IT Refurbishment Service offered by Interseroh is aimed at companies whose IT and communication devices frequently have a short useful life, even though they are mostly still functional. The subsidiary of recycling specialist ALBA Group buys these devices and organizes all of the steps along their journey to reuse. If the data carriers are defective or cannot be used for other reasons, the provider of environmental services will organize their professional disposal.

About the Global Recycling Day

With the Global Recycling Day, the world recycling association, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) aims to raise the awareness of political decision-makers, the world of business and the general public for the importance of recycling to global protection of the environment and the climate. The day is taking place on 18th March 2018 – the 70th anniversary of the world association. The Global Recycling Day aims to support and advance recycling all over the world.