Co-op extends tech recirculation offer to keep devices out of landfill

The service is operated in partnership with tech recirculation platform Spring. Spring and the Co-op first began working together in 2021, trialling in-store kiosks for the trade-in of phones, tablets, e-readers and smartwatches in 20 Greater London stores.

Now, with kiosks a fixture in 30 Co-op stores, the two organisations are working together to offer a postal service. Customers at 45 Co-op stores in cities and towns across the UK will be able to collect a padded waterproof pouch from the store, to be used to post their items to Spring. Pouches can also be requested free of charge online.

Spring will take the devices sent in the pouches and restore them to factory settings, removing saved files and data. It also prepares them for resale with either repair or refurbishment, depending on the condition of the devices. Devices not able to be repaired or refurbished will be recycled.

In exchange for their used devices, Co-op customers will receive credit to their Spring account.

“Expanding our partnership with Spring enables more communities to unlock the value in forgotten phones and other unwanted tech which are then re-used or recycled avoiding unnecessary e-waste,” said Co-op Food’s director of format and innovation Mark Matthews.

“We are committed to creating added services that provide a compelling customer offer in our communities and, making it quick, easy and convenient for shoppers to make small changes to their everyday lives, can add up to make a big difference for our planet and natural environment.”

Unused tech

Electronic and electrical waste, e-waste, is the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream. According to the UN, global e-waste levels increased by more than one-fifth between 2014 and 2019, with the majority of the 53.6 million metric tonnes generated in 2019 dumped or landfilled.

Yet in markets like the UK, the hoarding of used technology is potentially more of an issue than dumping or landfilling. A 2019 piece of research from the Royal Society of Chemistry revealed that 96% of Brits were keeping one or more small technology item at home, with two-thirds planning to keep hold of them indefinitely. This prevents the valuable materials within the devices from being put to use.

This research revealed high levels of confusion about where to recycle or trade-in tech and high levels of concern around personal data stored on devices. Since it was conducted, many retailers have sought to allay these concerns.

Earlier this year, for example, Currys started offering second-hand products on its own website after trialling their sale via eBay for the first time last November. The retailer has noted an uptick in interest in buying and selling used tech amid the cost-of-living crisis.

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