SUEZ and MakeSense teamed up in 2014 to create the Future of Waste program, focused on alternative solutions for reducing, reusing and recycling waste. For COP21, Future of Waste is taking action and launching its first Waste&Climate Impact Program, which aims to build public understanding of the links between global warming and waste, while helping entrepreneurs to highlight their positive impacts on climate. Each week, open_resource gives Future of Waste its own slot to talk about an entrepreneur from the Waste&Climate program. Credit: Thom / Unsplash
Credit: Thom / Unsplash
In France, the average GHG emissions associated with the consumption of goods and services has reached 10.1 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per citizen (2012 data). Among emission sources, the production of IT and electronic equipment purchased accounts for over 6% of this total.
Back Market recycles, refurbishes and returns electronic devices to the market in order to prolong their life and thus reduce the environmental impact of such products over their lifetime.
Christmas is coming soon, and with it scores of high-tech gifts: smartphones, computers, televisions and more will be landing under the tree this year. These sought-after gifts will of course push their predecessors out the door, with many of them ending up at the back of our cupboards! For example, an estimated 100 million telephones have already been discarded.
This phenomenon is particularly preposterous in environmental terms: the vast majority of these discarded products still work, and can be reused in order to limit production of new devices, thus reducing the environmental impact of high-tech products. The production of one 32-inch flat-screen television, for example, involves the emission of 1.2 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent, which equals 12% of a French citizen’s annual carbon footprint, according to a study by Carbone 4.
Getting electronic devices out of our cupboards and giving them a second life in order to reduce the systematic production of new products is the rationale behind the Back Market project.
The company: Back Market
Back Market is a (super) market for refurbished electrical and electronic products: it puts products that have already been used back onto the market after they have been inspected and restored to perfect working order.
This start-up consists of three levels:
1. Collection: this involves encouraging a maximum number of consumers to resell their unwanted devices in a bid to avoid the “hoarding habit.” In addition to offering a financial incentive (Back Market will buy devices from consumers), the start-up has developed a set of services aimed at making the transaction as fast and simple as possible for the user, for example the option of handing the device off to a courier, right at the user’s doorstep.
2. Expert, verified servicing: Back Market currently brings together 30 refinishing and restoration plants, each with expertise in a specific product category (computers, smartphones, TVs and so on). Each plant must commit to an extremely precise set of specifications (technical teams, deadlines, customer service, guarantees and more). The quality of their service is evaluated by the Backers, whose ratings and opinions are made public on the site.
3. Acceptance: no new life without a new owner. Back Market’s objective is to make the refurbished products more desirable than new products by convincing the general public to accept these newly reprocessed products. The main selling point is the price (50% less expensive, on average) plus a guarantee (up to one year on the platform), as well as highly reactive customer service with a true human touch.
Other solutions for reducing the volume of electronic waste
Refurbishment is not the only way of prolonging the life of electrical and electronic devices. The repair segment in particular is booming, with lots of community and entrepreneurial initiatives, such as the Repair Café network, which helps to fix faulty devices thanks to the services offered by volunteer “tinkerers!”