3 Ways Your Smartphone Will Reduce Your Carbon Footprint if Bought Refurbished

Jun 7th 2023


The word ‘carbon emissions’ doesn't really conjure up the image of a sleek, shiny, immaculately packaged tech gadget. Traditionally, we’ve been tuned to associate carbon with transportation, oil & gas. Little do we realize that our everyday electronics release worrying quantities of carbon as we go about our daily grind.

The combined carbon footprint of devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, and PCs has grown exponentially in the last few years. According to the Journal of Cleaner Production, it will increase to 14% by 2040, a sharp rise from 1% in 2007. 

At Reebelo, we’re committed to bringing these numbers down by encouraging the use of refurbished tech within the circular economy. And in honor of World Environment Day 2023, we’re unraveling what carbon footprint is, how it relates to your favorite refurbished or new phones, and what can be done to positively impact our environment.

Simply put, carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released by your favorite electronics in the atmosphere - starting from manufacturing and usage, all the way to disposing them responsibly.

Top 3 Ways Buying Refurbished Makes a Difference

Since 90% of these emissions are released before devices leave a factory, you can make a difference by considering and purchasing refurbished tech. Let’s explore three ways in which reconditioned technology can help lower your carbon footprint.

Reduced emission-intensive mining & manufacturing

We’ve previously talked about the emission-intensive manufacturing process for hi-tech gadgets on our blog. A quick recap, a smartphone:

  • Requires mining of roughly 10% glass and ceramics, 60% metals, and 30% plastics. 
  • Releases 170.4lbs of carbon emissions
  • Uses 77,000 liters of water
  • Creates 6.29oz of e-waste
  • Takes $500+ out of your pocket!

Extensive research at MacMaster University, Canada shows that the emissions from cell phone manufacturing, in particular, have surpassed all expectations. They grew by a staggering 730%, growing from 17 megatons to 125 megatons a year. That’s the lion’s share compared to any other devices we use on a daily basis.

What does it take to play your part in turning these extravagant figures around? Buying a 100% functional, like-new refurbished phone instead. It's a win-win 🙌

Extending the life of a fully functioning device 

A device manufactured after intensive research, mining, and extraction of materials should be used to its fullest. When used responsibly, a phone’s life can be extended well beyond the 2-year mark. 

When buying refurbished, you limit your carbon footprint by giving a second chance to a perfectly functioning iPhone or MacBook Pro. Studies have shown that extending the lifespan of a smartphone by only 2 more years helps balance the environment 50% better. That’s exactly what refurbishing does. 

Moreover, using your device longer means you get the most value out of the emissions. Now that’s a small price to pay for a better, healthier breathing space. Isn’t it?

Contribute to better, higher-quality recycling

Did you know, there are 6.84 billion phones in the world? And a mere 15% of these make it to recycling. Where do the rest go when they are replaced? Either deep inside a cluttered tech cabinet or in landfills as e-waste. According to Cleanup.org, e-waste is responsible for 70% of toxicity in Australian landfills.

reduce environmental impact of smartphones

Therefore, committing to buying refurbished is a commitment to improving recycling globally. When done right, most phones that are usable go through the refurbishment process and are spruced up for resale. Others that have truly reached their end of life are dismantled for valuable minerals that were once mined using carbon-intensive methods.

The same minerals are sold to recycling companies who supply them for jewelry or currency minting. Voila, welcome to the circular economy.