Repurposing vs. Recycling: Climate Change

Repurposing vs. Recycling: Climate Change

This is part two of a three-part series detailing the benefits of CircleIT’s prioritization of repurposing over recycling electronic devices. You can view part one here.


The consequences of climate change are felt globally via crippling heat waves, extreme storms, droughts, and wildfires. It exacerbates global inequality, could cause a sixth mass extinction, and makes our planet more inhospitable. Addressing climate change will require efforts from virtually everyone across the globe. CircleIT’s mission is to create positive environmental, social and customer outcomes by focusing on repurposing devices instead of recycling them.


On our sustainability page is a commitment to help prevent climate change through circularity. When old, slow, or broken devices are thrown out or broken down for recycling, CircleIT loses an opportunity to fulfill its commitment. By prioritizing repurposing, CircleIT is shrinking the demand for new electronics, thus alleviating the climate pressures associated with manufacturing new devices.


The majority of new electronic devices' carbon footprint is associated with their manufacturing. For example, making a phone can account for between 85%-95% of its annual footprint. This is predominantly due to the energy-intensive mining of raw materials.


An average electronic device contains over 60 metals and minerals, including energy-intensive metals such as platinum, gold, silver, copper, cobalt, and iron. It is estimated that excavating, loading, transporting, and processing these materials consumes 11% of global energy use. And as reserves deplete and resources degrade, they will require more energy to mine. From 2001-2017 degrading copper in Chile forced a 130% increase in fuel consumption and a 32% increase in electricity consumption per unit mined. Not only will conserving these precious resources reduce climate change emissions but sustain them to be used by renewable energy resources. The World Bank contends that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals are required to deploy wind, solar, geothermal power, and energy storage to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.


The remaining portion of a new device's carbon footprint comes from its shipping. Maritime ships carry 80% of global trade per volume (including electronics) and are responsible for 2%-3% of global emissions. And this does not include the carbon emissions associated with the trucking of goods from ports to stores and homes. As the population grows and low-income families shift to middle-income status, there will be increasing demand to ship electronics domestically and internationally.


CircleIT is maximizing its ability to reduce carbon emissions from the electronics supply chain by increasing the number of devices it can process. To start, CircleIT now offers its services to everyday consumers and small businesses, two market segments historically overlooked by the ITAD industry. Allowing these two market segments to securely and sustainably process their neglected electronics will drastically increase CircleIT’s volume of repurposed devices.


CircleIT is also increasing its volume of devices repurposed  through its certified ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) program. Corporations that send their discarded electronics to CircleIT are now able to report the positive environmental and social impacts of CircleIT’s services on their own sustainability reports. This unprecedented value will attract more companies to hire CircleIT as they attempt to meet ambitious sustainability and social commitments and respond to public pressure.

Climate change is a generational challenge that requires a whole of economy response. And CircleIT wants to lead the ITAD portion of it by rebuffing the recycling standard in favor of repurposing.