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Rebooting in 3, 2, 1…

I got my first laptop when I started college in 2007. It was a heavy torture device that I begrudgingly dragged to classes with me every day. As a journalism major all I cared about is being able to operate Word so I could write my papers and stories. I’m glad to say technology has changed a lot since then.

The bulky (and pink – dont judge me, I was 19) laptop now rests in my study’s archive cabinet. It’s a sentimental reminder of my teens and I don’t have the heart to throw it away. In fact, I asked a family friend to patch it back up several times so it still works to this day! (Though you need the patience of an angel, my mom says…)

Over the last decade at Recycling International, I’ve probably gone through three or four laptops. I got a brand-new HP laptop at the start of this year. It’s one of those ultra-thin models with a sleak metallic design and a very fast processor. Terrific for working on the go (which is very welcome come trade show season!).

More devices reborn

Judging from the people in my network, I’m not the only one embracing a newer model. So let’s run the stats. A total of 268.3 million laptops were sold worldwide last year, raking in 19% growth compared to 2020.

Global laptop shipments reached 68 million units in the last quarter of 2021 alone, so Strategy Analytics reports. The largest player is currently Lenovo with a market share of almost 25% in the last quarter. In second place is HP (21%), followed by Dell (19%), Apple (10%) and Acer (8%).

Of course, these are the put on market sales as reported by the manufacturers. It doesn’t take into account the thriving second-life market. Especially refurbished smartphones and laptops have entered the mainstream in recent years.

The refurbished phone market was valued at US$ 22.5 billion in 2020; most of the demand (US$ 6.6 billion) came from US consumers. Trendwatchers believe this segment will reach almost US$ 40 billion by 2027.

Similarly, the global market for refurbished laptops and computers totalled US$ 3962 million in 2020. I’d like to point out that the biggest market share in this segment is held by laptops, at 62%. Looking ahead, these revived product segments will jointly reach US$ 7440 million by 2029.

If it’s not broke…?

That’s a lot of information to take in, I know. If you’re looking for a good place to start your search for refurbished electronics, here is a top 10 of most popular options:

  • Refurb.IO
  • CeX
  • Gazelle
  • Mac Of All Trades
  • NewEgg
  • Refurb.Me
  • TechForLess
  • Walmart
  • Original Equipment Manufacturers

I get the appeal. I mean, why pay top dollar for the novelty of a product if a reputable recycler or repair shop offers a used model in virtually ‘mint condition’? Nowadays, people prioritise functionality over reputation. Meanwhile, the reputation of second life devices has notably increased.

This makes sense seeing as leading brands like Apple, Sony and Dell are confidently promoting ‘sustainable’ products themselves. There is also a strong sense of pride and love for tech in the do-it-yourself repair communities reaching a wide audience through social platforms. Not least, recycling services are finally being recognised as instrumental to manufacturing industries and the circular economy.

Consumers seem to argue; ‘if recycling is no longer “dirty” and urban mining is “cool”, then I suppose there is nothing wrong with electronics that don’t come fresh out of the box’.

As for me, I have yet to purchase a ‘pre-loved’ device (I’m a perfectionist and hate surprises). But I make sure to pass on what I no longer use. My mom got two of my old smartphones, for example. My 9-year old niece likes to play around with the bulky handhelds, which is a great way for her to learn how to operate them safely and appreciate products that aren’t trending anymore.

This way, I hope to contribute to shrinking the manufacturing loop where possible, while extending the life cycle of functional electronics. Scrap is the final stage of a product, after all. And sometimes it can be avoided.

A quick reminder! I’m writing a series on refurbished products this year. If you know anyone who you think deserves to be featured — do let me know.

Would you like to share any interesting developments or article ideas with us? Don't hesitate to contact us.

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