Going green: The ecological impact of buying used tablets vs. new tablets

Tablets Enter the Tech Market

Tablets, being the newest up-and-comer tech toys on the digital landscape (well, yes, they’ve been out awhile now, but compared to mobile phones and laptops…), have similarly become one of the newest gadgets piling on as an increasingly major contributor to e-waste. As new tablets (and updated versions of established models) continue to be released on a regular basis, their new and improved technologies make each successive generation more useable and desirable to consumers, so people are updating their gadgets and dumping their old ones at an accelerating pace.

Unlike laptops and desktop computers, it is not easy to add updated chips, more RAM, or other new components to upgrade your tablet to keep up with new technologies, so more and more people simply buy new tablets rather than updating an old one. Older generation tablets are being thrown out, adding to the girth of landfills.

So when buying a tablet, how can an environmentally-conscious consumer choose the option that will have the least ecological impact?

Tablets and the Impact on Electronic Waste

In 2010, an estimated 6 million tons of electronic waste were produced. That number is expected to grow to 25 million tons by 2025. Like many other electronic items, tablets are not easily recyclable, as they contain numerous components (such as toxic metals) that make them hazardous to the environment when stripped down or tossed into landfills.

One of the best ways for consumers to go green is by reducing the number of tablets that enter market. This can be done in two ways: first, they can purchase used tablets when possible, and second, they can shop for tablets smartly to extend the amount of time they use and keep the tablets they purchase.

Determining What You Need in a Tablet

One of the best ways to start on the path of an environmentally sound purchase is to consider how much you really need your tablet to do. A person who will use a tablet for just basic uses – e.g., internet access, email, and a few standard apps – can do so with a less-powerful model than those who require a higher-powered device with greater capacities for gaming, media, work applications, or other processor-straining functions.

When in doubt, go for less. The temptation typically is to buy more than one needs, which, while ego-satisfying, often ends up with a consumer buying a more expensive device with far more capability than they need. Plus, not only can you do yourself and the environment a favor by buying based on your true needs, but in many cases you can be eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) by purchasing a used device.

Buying the Best Used Tablet

When buying a used device, there are things shoppers can keep in mind to make the most of their purchases. Remember that tablets have a tendency to become slower over time – a fact that has not been remedied with newer generations of tablet devices. For most buyers, the best option is to purchase a used device that is under two years old. Many sellers offer refurbished tablets that function just as well as brand new devices, so they can be a good option for those who don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest in tablet tech but want to ensure they receive a device with a lengthy lifespan.

Should I Buy a New Tablet?

For many buyers, there are plenty of reasons why purchasing a new device may be the most environmentally sound option. Those who require more functionality from their tablet may be better served by purchasing one that will last them for longer than a few months or a year, thus keeping it from adding to the stack in a landfill.

Another great option is the “phablet,” a mobile phone between the size of the typical tablet and a smartphone that can replace both items in terms of usability.

Recycling Old Tablets

By shopping smart, consumers can reduce their environmental impact while still enjoying the latest offerings technology has to offer. For example, by purchasing a used tablet that is only one or two generations old, a buyer can get all the advanced technology they need while keeping if from going to a landfill.

Another way to ensure a greener outcome is to sell your older devices when replacing them rather than throwing them away or banishing them to a closet. Additionally, there are plenty of recycling programs that refurbish electronic items like tablets, so finding and utilizing a local electronic recycling program can be a good option for green-conscious consumers.