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Electronic Upgrades Are an Environmental Hazard

Electronic Upgrades Are an Environmental Hazard

January 26, 2017

Business & Management, Social Sciences & Humanities

A new BGU study suggests that a sense of “technological backwardness,” or people’s need to trade in older-model electronics for new ones, is outpacing the functional life of those electronics and causing an environmental hazard. However, the study also showed that the Israeli user would be willing to pay more for their new devices if it ensured that their old ones were recycled.

Dr. Ran Ben Malka

Dr. Ran Ben Malka

Frequent upgrades to modern digital devices, such as smartphones, incentivize consumers to want to get the latest model, even if their current one is in perfect working order. Many people simply throw their outdated devices in the trash, creating an immense amount of unnecessary electronic waste.

BGU’s Dr. Ran Ben Malka and Prof Israel Luski, of the Department of Economics, and Prof. Miki Malul, of the Department of Public Policy and Administration, found that there is a direct correlation between the length of time a device is owned and consumer readiness to pay for a new one. Participants who had their devices longer were willing to pay more for the latest and greatest.

Prof. Miki Malul

Prof. Miki Malul

To test this tendency, the researchers asked study participants: “If you could get the most advanced smartphone on the market in exchange for your current phone plus an additional sum of money, what is the maximum amount you would pay for the new technology?”

Length of possession of the device was found to be the most influencing factor in consumer willingness to upgrade, but age, income, education level, and environmental awareness were also found to have an effect.

Prof. Israel Luski

Prof. Israel Luski

And, in the midst of the environmental impact of premature discarding of technology, there is hope for improvement.

Some 91.6 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay extra money during the purchase of electronic products to ensure their previous devices would be disposed of and recycled properly.

Making this part of the cost of new devices could go a long way in alleviating our current environmental burden.