Nearly 90% of Americans agree sustainability is important. But when you think of embracing that way of life what first comes to mind? You may think of recycling plastic bottles, cutting down on trash, and composting. But what about your electronic devices?
In advance of Earth Day 2022, we surveyed more than 1,000 Americans about the technology they have at home and what they do with it when it stops working. Turns out that a lot of people want to be eco-friendly but often don’t know where to start.
Electronics Use and Sustainability
Americans have a lot of technology in their homes, whether it works or not. In fact, 80% of people have two or more working cell phones in their household. 78% of those surveyed said they have two computers or more in their homes, and 41% have two or more tablets.
But those are just the working electronics. One out of ten people surveyed said they have three broken or unused cell phones at home and nearly 1 in 5 have four or more broken cellphones. Nearly half (45%) admitted to having one or two computers that don’t work or aren’t used, and 20% said they have a tablet tucked away that they don’t use anymore.
How Frequently Are Americans Replacing Electronics?
Electronics are often not replaced every year. But it adds up over time. Almost 30% of people said they upgrade their phone every three years. Let’s put that into perspective. If you got a cell phone when you were 12-years-old in middle school and lived to be 100-years-old, that means you would go through 29 cell phones in your lifetime. A family of five would go through 146 cell phones.
One out of five people embrace the phrase “out with the old, and in with the new.” 20% said they get rid of their phones because they want to upgrade to the latest model. But the majority of people surveyed said they were forced to get a new device. 62% had to replace their phones because they broke or had bad battery life.
After getting a new device, money is a big driving factor in what a lot of people do next. Nearly one in four (38%) people acknowledged they trade in their phone for credit or money. Surprisingly, nearly the same amount of people (37%) take their old phones with them and store them away at home. 15% say they recycle and just 6% give it away to a family member or friend.
As for computers, people upgrade those less often than phones, but are more likely to replace a working one. The majority of people surveyed (30%) said they get a new computer or laptop about every five years. Nearly one-third (32%) of people admitted to getting new computers just because they want a new model. 42% said they have to buy a new one because it broke.
How Many People Actually Recycle Their Electronics?
People want to recycle their electronics, but many don’t. 56% acknowledged recycling electronics is hard. Nearly half (45%) said they’ve never recycled any electronics. In fact, 19% admitted to throwing their phone in the garbage and 18% admitted to doing the same thing with a computer or laptop.
Nearly 90% said they would likely recycle electronics if they had more information and knew how to do it. More than three out of four people said they had no idea about electronics recycling events in their community. But this isn’t the case for everyone. Nearly 40% said they have recycled a cell phone, and 32% have recycled a computer or laptop.
Awareness of Electronics Sustainability
When it comes down to it, sustainability is important for Americans. Nearly 90% said sustainability is something they value, and six out of ten people support electronics sustainability. 58% of people said they try to find places to recycle their old electronics, and nearly seven out of ten (67%) people said buying environmentally friendly products is important to them. In fact, 60% of people are willing to buy an environmentally friendly product even if it’s more expensive.
All this being said, there’s still a long way to go in educating Americans about electronics sustainability. One out of three people surveyed said they’ve never even thought about it before. 21% of people admitted they didn’t even realize electronics could be recycled. Another 16% said they just didn’t have the time to find out where to recycle electronics.
What Are People Doing With Broken or Unused Electronics?
There are an average of four broken or unused devices sitting in American homes. More than six out of ten (64%) people surveyed said they do their best to try to fix their phones before replacing it. However, two out of five people confessed they’ve upgraded their electronics even though there was nothing wrong with their current one.
A lot of it has to do with owning the latest model. One in five said it’s important to have the latest model of a phone, and 17% said it’s important to have the latest computer or laptop model.
Methodology + Media: In April 2022, we surveyed 1,114 people to get their feedback about electronics use and sustainability. The average age of respondents was 40. 49% were men and 48% women. For media inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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Recent Q&A: Check out our frequently asked questions about Additive Molding for portable electronics (view blog post).