So Much #EWaste is Unnecessary!

Mar 12, 2015 8:40 AM ET

During February’s GreenBiz Forum, I tweeted, #grnbz @GreenTechLady why can’t we focus more on refurbishment of #electronics?”

@GreenTechLady is award-winning journalist Heather Clancy, a senior writer for GreenBiz, among other publications, and host of several GreenBiz Forum sessions. Heather tweeted back, @carol_baroudi Agree Carol. I’d like to see more focus on retrofits and upgrades.”

Dan Ness (@dan-ness), principal analyst at MetaFacts, joined the discussion. @carol_baroudi @GreenTechLady Our latest TUP #survey shows 13% of active US PCs are refurbished or used #research #Reuse.

Looking at MetaFacts data, the business use of used/refurbished notebook PCs is favored most by small businesses, at 17%, or one in six PCs. For organizations with more than 1,000 employees, the rate is 11%.

We have the technology. We’re perfectly capable of repairing, refurbishing, retrofitting and upgrading, so why is it that people, even businesses, are so quick to replace old with brand-new instead of seeking to repair or better what they already have? I have several thoughts:

  1. Marketing spend. Part of every product’s budget is marketing dollars targeted to capture the new technology sale, and the aggregated clamor drowns out the paltry sums available to market reused products. Unlike in the used car market, the narrow margins on used technology aren’t typically augmented by the high-interest loans that often accompany a used car sale.
  2. Lack of knowledge. Although mounds of information on how to repair and upgrade are available online, you have to know to look. I was on the brink of sending my smartphone out for repair for a new battery when my boss pointed me to an article online that had instructions that fixed it in no time. It never occurred to me to research my problem or that I could so easily repair it myself.
  3. Erroneous perceived value. New technology is often accompanied by such phrases as “faster” and “more powerful.” We walk around with computing power that outstrips the technology used to send a man to the moon, yet how much of our current device capabilities does the average user really use or notice? The typical knowledge worker doesn’t need high-end scientific compute power, yet the “gotta have it” cravings perpetuate rapid churn. From a sustainability perspective, this is not a good thing.

For many technology uses, last year’s technology is more than sufficient. From the point of view of both the economy and environmental sustainability, buying used makes good sense. If you’ve never really taken a look at what’s available used, take a look at You can save money and know that you’re making a more sustainable choice.