How to reboot worn-out wearables?

How to reboot worn-out wearables?

December 10, 2019
Kirstin Linnenkoper

The global smartwatch market was worth €39.6 million in 2018 and is projected to increase to around €98.5 million by 2024. Despite this, the niche market is taking only its first steps with regards to recycling, delegates heard at the E-Waste World Conference & Expo in Frankfurt recently

Almost 14 million Fitbits were sold worldwide last year, well down on the Californian company’s best year of 2016 when sales exceeded 22.2 million. Despite the lower volumes entering the market in recent years, the total number of devices sold since 2010 is considerable at roughly 91 million.

“This means a lot of devices have reached and are approaching the end-of-life stage,” said Mulan Mu, Fitbit’s sustainability and circular supply chain specialist, who was one of 360 delegates in attendance at the conference. “The steady volume of wearables makes them an interesting recycling stream. We are trying to figure out what is the best way to collect them for recycling and what are the best recycling options nationwide.”

Mu pointed out that consumers have voiced data protection concerns, although Fitbit wants to guarantee that every device is refurbished or recycled by licensed players. “We’re exploring dedicated in-store take-back collection schemes right now,” she added. “This has proven to work well for other electronics as the high convenience factor boosts engagement.”

At the moment, consumers are advised to take old Fitbits to a local recycling center. Alternatively, big retailers such as Best Buy accept a wide array of unwanted consumer electronics, including pedometers, smart speakers, smartphones and smartwatches.

Both are said to be valid options for consumers, though Mu stressed that Fitbit wants to get directly involved in recycling to embrace the producer responsibility principle.

“As a company, we want to plan for future growth, but we want to do so sustainably,” she insisted. The company expects to increase sales by targeting health apps, which is where a potential for new growth lies, but is aware that more sales mean more waste. “Part of our mission is helping the recycling sector close the loop.”

This article first appeared on the Recycling International website 

E-Waste World Conference & Expo 2020 takes place from Wednesday 18 November to Thursday 19 November at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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