Consumer Perspectives on Mobile Device Recycling

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.

Below you will see key findings from the survey around incentivizing device recycling, barriers to making device recycling a habit, consumer demand for used devices and device leasing programs.

The survey findings highlight a number of key learnings, but perhaps the most apparent was discovering an opportunity for greater consumer education on where and how to properly dispose of used electronic devices.

*The International Telecommunication Union, May 2014

Between October 30 and November 2 we polled 1,000 consumers across the US by phone, of which 40 percent were contacted by cell phone, on five key questions:

  1. How likely are you to purchase a CERTIFIED USED electronic, like a smartphone, tablet or wearable products such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and Google Glass, as opposed to a new one?
  2. Which of the following incentives would motivate you to turn in your old electronics so they could be recycled?
  3. Which of the following barriers would prevent you from turning in your old electronics so they can be recycled?
  4. Which of the following would you be willing to lease or rent?
  5. Which of the following best describes your level of knowledge on how to properly recycle electronics such as smartphones, tablets and wearable products, such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and Google Glass?

Of those surveyed, there was an even split between males and females and respondents were broken into sub-groups by age, region, race, household income, and education level.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Incentivizing Device Recycling

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.

  • 2/3

    Nearly two-thirds said knowing a device would go to a person in need or to a developing country would be a motivating factor to turn in old devices. Millennials (74 percent) and 45-54 year olds (71 percent) were slightly more likely to say altruistic incentives would help them recycle.

  • 63%

Other motivating incentives for recycling include: a "free upgrade or discount on a new device" (63 percent) and a “cash incentive or gift card” (62 percent).

Barriers to Making Device Recycling a Habit

Despite the power of incentives, such as altruism, cash/gift cards or free upgrades, significant barriers still exist to achieving the recycling mindset.

  • 91%

  • Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said there are barriers to recycling old electronics

  • 2/3

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.

  • 55%

  • A majority (55 percent) indicated concerns about clearing data and identity theft as barriers to recycling devices, followed by the not knowing where to turn in devices (45 percent) and a preference to keep devices (43 percent).

Appetite for Used Products

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

  • 64%

    said they would be "unlikely" to purchase a certified-used electronic, such as a smartphone, tablet or wearable product as opposed to a new product.

  • 50%

  • 12%

Nearly half of millennials (ages 18 to 34) said they would be "likely" to purchase a certified-used electronic, compared to just 12 percent of seniors (65 and older).

Leasing Devices

Most Americans are not currently considering leasing electronic devices.

  • 20%

  • While 38 percent of Americans are willing to lease a car, only 20 percent of those surveyed would consider leasing electronic devices.

  • 40%

Those most likely to consider leasing electronic products were Hispanics (40 percent)


Our Place in the Mobile Ecosystem

Ingram Micro Mobility doesn’t make mobility’s hottest technologies. We discover and deliver those technologies to hungry buyers. Mobile carriers, mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), retail stores and product manufacturers rely on us to be well connected in the mobile ecosystem, so they can focus on growing their business.

Because we operate at the center of the mobile ecosystem, we quickly adapt to our customers’ changing needs with unique insight into the mobile industry. Research such as “Recycling Mobile Devices: A Consumer Awareness Study” adds to this insight, which we share with our customers, as well as consumers and the industry.

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