Updated: Nov 27
In the fast-paced world of technology, should we lean towards prolonged usage of products, or are shorter consumer electronics usage cycles the key to sustainability? How do our consumption habits affect the environment, and why should we care what happens to our devices after we’ve used them?
“So much innovation has been done on getting things into your home. The innovation I believe is missing is getting things out of our homes.”
- Ana Andjelic, Sociology PhD, Columbia University and author of The Business of Aspiration*
Shorter Consumer Electronics Usage Cycles = Enhanced Economic Value
Let’s start by defining the key terms:
product usage cycle - the period of time during which one consumer uses a product;
product lifetime value - the period of time a product has value for consumers (so it is circulated between different consumers by reselling it on the secondary market, before recycling.)
When we buy consumer electronics more frequently, our previously used devices retain a higher economic value on the secondary market. This not only extends the lifetime value of these products, but also contributes to a more sustainable consumer ecosystem.
So, how does this work?
Preplanned product renewal cycles allow more consumers to extract more value at a better price-to-quality ratio. Just imagine, buying a second-hand laptop which has been in use for two years and is properly refurbished vs buying a three-year-old laptop without any reliable refurbishment from the marketplace. For merchants, shorter cycles translate into generating more revenues by reselling the same products.
Refurbishment Extends Consumer Electronics Lifetime Value
The high quality refurbishment process is a game-changer. It breathes new life into used consumer electronics, elevating their value for the next user. Skilled professionals restore these devices, perform secure data wipe, and ensure that they meet high-quality standards, extending their usefulness.
What's the impact of refurbishment on consumer electronics' usage cycles?
This way, the same products circulate between consumers for longer. Thanks to refurbishment and planned renewal periods, the quality of electronic devices is maintained. The key is getting these devices back from consumers in a good enough condition to maximise their value on the secondary market.
Repeating Consumer Electronics Usage Cycles Leads to Sustainability
You might assume that longer consumer electronics usage cycles are more sustainable, but that is not the case.
Using devices beyond the recommended usage cycle doesn’t allow preplanning of refurbishment and remarketing as it’s unknown to merchants when the device will be returned. In addition, it’s unlikely that the same user who bought a new and powerful laptop is ready to use that device until the end of its useful lifetime. For example, an over 10-year-old computer is still usable, but has a very different user experience than a newer model.
It’s important to keep in mind that the carbon footprint associated with refurbishment is relatively low. It includes logistics, data wipe, and minor repairs. For instance, the footprint of a refurbished laptop is estimated to be below 5% of the production footprint, i.e. the cost of making the same product from virgin materials. This makes refurbishing a viable and environmentally-friendly choice. It’s even better if refurbishing is agreed at the point when the new device is handed over to the consumer.
Products as a Service Endorses Shorter Consumer Electronics Usage Cycles
As we’re striving for sustainability, it's crucial to weigh these factors when deciding how we use our electronic devices.
What are the benefits?
Gains from preplanned shorter consumer electronics usage cycles, coupled with responsible refurbishment practice, are pretty obvious:
higher circulation of electronic devices;
more consumers using the same device;
more economic value created;
longer product lifetime value;
positive environmental impact and a lower carbon footprint.
This equation is perfectly solved by the product-as-a-service model. It’s much more than just a payment option. Merchants can offer products as a service for affordable monthly payments to their customers, and manage the entire product life cycle from purchase to periodic upgrades, reuse, and recycling. Hence, define shorter consumer electronics usage cycles. And, at the same time, grow their business and customer base.
By reimagining our approach to offering and consuming products, we can pave the way for a more sustainable future, one product at a time.