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Why refurbished technology has a lower impact on the environment

Why refurbished technology has a lower impact on the environment

It’s relatively unknown, but there is a huge and growing electronic waste (e-waste) problem. Globally we are buying (and replacing) more and more new tech, think phones, computers, tablets, Alexa’s, microwaves, washing machines, fridges. When these devices reach the end of their lives or are no longer wanted the majority are either burnt or end up in landfill where they have a terrible effect on the environment and local communities.   


53 million tonnes

of e-waste produced in 2021 1

83% e-waste

Ends up in landfill or is burnt 2

342 million

PCs sold worldwide in 2021 3


The initial production, transportation and end-of-life disposal of our tech has a big impact on the environment. Tackling the e-waste problem is complex but there are some things that we can do to help, one of those things is buying quality refurbished.


Reusing raw materials

To make a smartphone or computer you need a number of raw materials, for example Aluminium, Cobalt, Gold, Lithium, Zinc and a number of rare earth metals. The mining of these raw materials creates huge carbon emissions, has a great impact on local ecosystems and often involves tough human conditions. Buying refurbished bypasses this altogether, putting those raw materials back to use.

Apple themselves make great efforts in this area, working to transition to recycled and renewable source materials. In fiscal year 2021, 18% of the material Apple shipped in products came from recycled and renewable sources.4



Reusing plastic

The problems with plastic pollution compared to e-waste is much more well known. Plastic is used for a number of things in computers, from speakers to key caps. Refurbishing extends the life of a product, repurposes the plastic used and avoids the cost of more plastic in a new device.


Bypassing initial production and transportation emissions

Using Apple’s own data, up to 91% of a device's carbon footprint is generated in the initial production and transport! For example raw materials might be mined from Mongolia, products manufactured in China, then distributed globally before being sold. Buying refurbished bypasses this initial production and transportation cost completely.

Below we have used Apple's product environment report data to compare the percetange of a devices carbon footprint generated from the inital production and transport. The carbon footprint of a device is made up of it's production, transport, use and end of life processing.

Device carbon emission generated by initial production and transportation5

13" MacBook Air life cycle carbon emissions

  • 84% production & transport
  • 15% use
  • <1% end-of life processing

13" MacBook Pro life cycle carbon emissions

  • 79% production & transport
  • 20% use
  • <1% end-of life processing

16" MacBook Pro life cycle carbon emissions

  • 72% production & transport
  • 27% use
  • <1% end-of life processing

iPad life cycle carbon emissions

  • 91% production & transport
  • 8% use
  • <1% end-of life processing
  • Based on iPad (8th gen)

iMac 27" life cycle carbon emissions

  • 54% production & transport
  • 45% use
  • <1% end-of life processing

Mac mini life cycle carbon emissions

  • 60% production & transport
  • 39% use
  • <1% end-of life processing

End of life disposal

In 2019, 17% of e-waste produced reached formal management or recycling facilities. Most e-waste ends up in landfill where toxic metals leach into the environment, affecting ecosystems and water supplies. Refurbishing makes the products we already have last longer, tackles overconsumption, and puts quality tech back in peoples hands for use.


Why Buy refurbished

Apple devices are designed to last, but often great tech will find early retirement as they’re replaced with the latest models or when large businesses have staff changes. We work hard to source the best used Apple devices, refurbish them to the highest standards and reintroduce them back into circulation. This extends each product’s life, puts those raw materials back to use and greatly reduces e-waste generated from overconsumption. It also lowers the cost of great tech, helping people, businesses and schools save money.


What can I do to help with e-waste

  1. Reduce. Reduce how much tech you buy and consider buying refurbished or used devices when possible.
  2. Repair. If something isn’t working properly consider repair as an option.
  3. Recycle or trade-in. When your devices are at the end of their life look to recycle or trade them in. This gives those raw materials a change of being reused again and helps avoid landfill.