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Reduced, Reused, Recycled - Trends and Opportunities for the Tech Channel

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

With COP26 grabbing headlines this week, brands and channel partners are under more pressure to adapt their businesses to be ‘greener’ whilst maintaining healthy sales numbers and profit margins. So outside of selling compostable phone cases and gadgets made of recycled materials, what other options are out there?

Two trends that are gaining traction in the channel are refurbished and rental. Both play an important role in the circular economy and help prolong a device’s lifecycle.


Refurbished is not a new concept

Selling refurbished devices is not a new concept and there are many channel partners across the world that have been leading the way. French distributor, itancia, is one such example, and they have been driving the refurbished movement for 30+ years. In that time, they have developed their portfolio beyond laptops and smartphones to cover a number of B2B categories including telephony, networks and licenses. In 2020, itancia refurbished 327,800 products, saving 9848 tonnes in CO2 emissions.

The global refurbished market in numbers

According to Transparency Market Research, the global refurbished computers and laptops market is projected to reach a value of US$ 4.9 Bn by 2027.

IDC Forecasts Worldwide Market for Used Smartphones to Reach 351.6 Million Units with a Market Value of $65 Billion in 2024.

Refurbished smartphone sales grew by 4% in 2020 and research firm Counterpoint anticipates stronger sales in 2020.

The refurbished printers market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 9.2% during 2021-2031 (Future Market Insights).

Consumer perception of refurbished has changed

Consumer attitudes to buying refurbished devices have changed over the past few years. Concerns for the environment, product shortages and the covid effect has boosted the appetite for ‘good as new’ products. Price savings vs a new device has also been a massive factor.

A recent study by refurbished marketplace, Back Market, indicated that attitudes towards refurbished phones had changed for the better. “In May of 2019, 16% of people were buying refurbished for environmental reasons; in February 2021, that number is 25%.”

More marketplaces are selling into B2B channels

Many distributors and resellers are already selling refurbished devices to sectors including education, health and government. But there are growing numbers of refurbished marketplaces springing up across EMEA and APAC with many extending their reach beyond consumer and into B2B.

Finnish refurb outfit, Swappi, is one such example, and is now selling refurbed iPhones to SMEs in a number of countries across Europe. Swappi manages the refurbishment process from start to finish, so it can also offer VAT exempt iPhones to its customers, making for some competitive pricing.

Refurbed, a European marketplace for refurbished electronics recently raised $54 million in Series B funding. In 2020, the company grew sales by three times over vs 2019, and reached more than €100 million in gross merchandise volume (GMV).

Rental on the up

The rental movement is also picking up pace in 2021 with German online platform, Grover, making waves in the market. Present in 4 European countries, Grover is partnered with key German retailers including MediaMarkt Saturn, Conrad, Gravis and selected Euronics stores. The company recently secured $1 billion in investment and has launched its platform in the US.

Bin it to win it

e-waste is anticipated to grow by 30% by 2030 and has the dubious title of being the fastest growing waste stream today. But there are some innovative startups that are looking to tackle the problem and offer consumers alternative recycling solutions and cash in their pocket.

In the UK, tech recycling startup Spring is trialling a number of AI-enabled recycling pods at selected Co-Op and Morrison’s stores. In a matter of minutes, customers can set up an account, deposit their device and get a conditional valuation before it’s shipped to Spring’s workshop for a more thorough evaluation.

Meanwhile, Dubai based firm NorthLadder has taken an innovative approach to recycling with an auction-driven platform. Customers get an online quote for their device via the NorthLadder website and once it has been deposited and verified, dealers across the UAE will bid for the device.


Transparency Research


Counterpoint Research

Future Market Insights





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