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The Next Economy
Increasing Accessibility and Revitalizing Forgotten Devices:
Shouldn’t We Be Able to Upgrade Our Laptops?

Those who regularly partake in upgrade programs will have access to the best possible devices, while partaking in a sustainable business practice that enhances the wellbeing of people and the planet.

"I need a new phone."

Think about how long it typically takes for you to have the thought. For most, the two- or three-year mark is about the time they realize that it’s time for an upgrade. Thankfully, most smartphone brands offer seamless programs that allow you to easily upgrade to the newest model.

Now, ask yourself: How long does it take for you to have that same thought for a new laptop? If you're like most, you're holding onto that precious device until it's fighting for its last breath.

Many of us keep our laptops for up to 5, 7 or even 10 years — despite having similar wear-and-tear and regular usage as your smartphone. By the time you’re ready for a new laptop, many assume the old one is likely too far gone to be sold; so, it will likely collect dust in our drawers. Even worse, many laptops are getting thrown in the trash and contributing to the global e-waste crisis that has devastating environmental consequences.

From a practical perspective, there’s no reason why the same idea behind mobile phone upgrades can’t be broadened to laptops, computers and any electronic device that undergoes everyday usage. This particularly holds true for those who rely on their laptops to make a living — the solopreneurs, independent contractors, creatives and freelancers that count on a fast, efficient, reliable laptop are the ones who benefit the most from frequent upgrades because it allows them access to the most advanced technology without having to break the bank each time. But it must be done in a way that facilitates a circular economy and keeps old devices — and all the rare earth and critical elements within them — alive in secondhand markets.

In order for these upgrade programs to be effective in reducing global e-waste, awareness is key. The more people can opt-in to upgrade programs, the more used devices will be out of people’s closets and back into circulation.

And these programs provide a new level of access for those who have been priced out by the manufacturers. It’s simply not fiscally feasible for many individuals to pay $2000-3000 for a new laptop upfront. Instead of spending thousands of dollars in one go, people can simply take on an upgrade plan and make monthly payments — sometimes with no interest. Once they make all the necessary payments and they’re eligible for the newest model, that same laptop can be traded in to be repurposed for another customer who doesn’t necessarily require a brand-new laptop for their needs.

When it comes to moving the needle on a societal scale, it’s up to us to make that conscious decision to be a part of the change.

When working with upgrade providers, the ability to trade-in old laptops is essential; so these devices can be repurposed through the same program. Many of these devices are still in great condition and with solid battery health and can be sold to customers whose needs are simple – such as email and document editing. Laptops that are two or three years old can be a perfect fit for a new college student, for example. Old iPads can be traded-in and then can be sold to families who just need something simple for their child to use. As upgrade programs become more popular, the same process can feasibly extend to many other electronic devices — from computers, TVs, gaming consoles, smartwatches and fitness trackers, and more.

But beyond that, the repurposing of devices is one of our most promising paths to reducing global e-waste. Currently, according to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor, 82 percent of e-waste is unaccounted for — which experts say contributes 55 tons of mercury that will eventually be released into the environment. This has already led to poisoning effects in some of the most vulnerable communities around the globe — with the improper discarding of computers, laptops and televisions as one of the main culprits. By normalizing and instituting upgrade programs that require device trade-ins, it can significantly reduce the number of improperly disposed devices every year.

The ability to opt-in to an upgrade program provides independent contractors, solopreneurs and creatives more flexibility of choice and access to the best devices without a significant upfront cost, while ensuring that old devices are properly handled and not contributing to e-waste and its environmental and human impacts. A continued commitment to extending the life of devices such as laptops can create a domino effect in society — as word spreads about the individual advantages, financial savings and environmental benefits they include.

More than that, those who regularly partake in upgrade programs can feel confident that they have access to the best possible device to do their work, while partaking in a sustainable business practice that enhances the wellbeing of the planet and our society.