Opting for last year’s model can save you a lot and help the environment. Picture: Supplied
Where do old cellphones go to die? It’s a question few consumers consider and gadget reviewers are guiltier of this than most, focused as we usually are on the newest, shiniest flagship devices.

But it’s undoubtedly something we should think about. With billions of these hand-held communicators/pocket computers in global circulation, the implications are immense in terms of the environmental impact and the human rights issues surrounding the sometimes-shady sourcing of components and less than wholesome working conditions of the assemblers.

While many phones are handed down to relatives, friends and staff, plenty disappear into a drawer or, worse, a landfill when they’re replaced by a newer model. Wouldn’t it make more sense to trade in your old phone for a discount on a new one or put it to work doing something else?

That trade-in option is something more consumers are pursuing, thanks to the growing number of retailers who now offer this. The amounts on offer may not seem overly generous, but a few hundred rand in your pocket is better than the fat nothing you’re getting while your old phone languishes in a cupboard.

And this supply of older devices has led to a growing market in pre-owned smartphones, giving them a new lease on life.

One company that’s hopped on to this trend is weFix. Better known as a repairer of electronic devices, it recently relaunched its line of i2 reconditioned iPhones, packaged with earphones and a screen protector.

“Pre-loved devices are the perfect solution for those who want a quality phone at a lower price than buying new, or for those who are conscious about the environment,” said chief operations officer Grant Webster.

In line with the company’s philosophy of “repair rather than replace”, a one-year protection plan from insurance partner Click2Sure is an option, meaning that devices are insured from the moment consumers leave the store.

Webster said the market in what he terms “pre-loved” devices is a relatively new one in South Africa - one that lies at the intersection between affordability and environmental consciousness.

“While consumers may have the desire to buy devices new, the financial depreciation of a refurbished or reconditioned unit makes it a highly attractive alternative.”

Translation: a second-hand iPhone is a lot cheaper than a new one.

How much cheaper? You can get on to the iPhone ladder for R2999 by buying the i2 iPhone 5S with 32Gb of storage. If you’re looking for a more recent model, an iPhone 6 with 64Gb of storage can be had for R6799. Visit weFix.co.za/shop-online for all available models.

If the financial savings aren’t enough to convince you to consider a refurbished phone, perhaps environmental factors will.

Grant says South Africans are increasingly calling for refurbished or reconditioned products within a new “circular economy” that rejects the “take, make and dispose” industrial model.

“In the past few years, local companies such as Vodacom, DStv and WeFix are offering refurb or repair products that are affordable and environmentally conscientious.”

The statistics he quotes to support the argument are startling.

“Of the world’s staggering 50million tons of electronic waste generated this year, most will find its way to African and Asian countries, which are being adopted as global landfills.”

He said each year South Africa generated about 300000 tons of electronic waste - about 5.7kg per citizen. “In Africa, we’re the second-highest generator of e-waste.”

Electronic waste contains toxic substances that can pollute the environment and endanger life, says Grant.

* Follow Cooper on Twitter @alanqcooper.