Co-op Group expands trials of its tech recycling partnership

The retailer is working with tech-recirculation start-up Spring to allow customers to sell unwanted gadgets so they can be reused or stripped of minerals and components

The Co-op Group has expanded a scheme to encourage people to recycle old phones and other gadgets in a bid to cut down on waste.

The retail co-op is working with tech-recirculation start-up, Spring, to tackle the waste of devices and the components and rare material they contain – in a scheme which also allows people to turn unwanted gadgets in to cash.

The partnership, which began last October with the launch of Spring’s self-service pods in 20 of the Group’s London stores, has now been rolled-out to stores in Birmingham, Brighton, Leeds and Manchester.

Shoppers can use a Spring pod to sell old devices such as phones, tablets, e-readers and smartwatches, which then be repaired, refurbished, reused, or recycled. Spring accepts almost 14,000 different devices and customers receive payment to their Spring account within one to three days. The money can then be transferred to a bank account or to charity.

Where devices cannot be re-used, Spring will ensure all components – which include materials such as gold, copper, aluminium and steel – are recycled. These resources are traditionally typically discarded when phones are thrown away and the trial with Spring ensures nothing goes to landfill or incineration.

The scheme tackles a pressing problem: research has found that UK households and businesses produce 1.45 million tonnes of electrical waste each year and, almost half of UK households have between two and five unused electronic devices sitting at home, with the issue expected to grow.  This causes issues of waste pollution as well as contributing to the environmental pressures caused by the mining of replacement minerals – which has already prompted co-op initiatives like the Fairphone.

Mark Matthews, the Group’s director of innovation and format, said: “Co-op’s partnership with Spring will enable more communities to recycle or reuse their electronic devices locally, unlocking the value in forgotten phones and other unwanted tech and, importantly, preventing unnecessary and avoidable e-waste.

“If we are going to have a natural environment which we are proud to pass on to future generations we need action to be taken now. By making it easier for consumers to make small changes to their everyday lives, it can add up to make a big difference for our environment.”

Spring co-founder Tom Williams said: “Leaving an unused device in a drawer means that rather than it being reused by someone else, it’s taken out of circulation and needs to be replaced with something new. Spring, together with Co-op, are making it easy for people to recirculate unwanted tech, which not only puts money in their pockets but also has a positive impact on the environment. We’ve already made a huge impact with our first pods in London and we’re excited to bring this to more local communities”.