E-waste is one of the fastest-growing and complex waste streams in the world. With 53.6 million tonnes produced annually, it affects both humans and the environment. However, less than 20% of E-waste is recycled proliferating a loss of valuable raw materials. The rest ending up in landfills. Global E-waste Monitor, 2020

To help Google introduce an easy and affordable TV takeback solution for U.S. consumers INDEED created a strategic vision for improving the user experience and scaling the recycling rate.

Image credit: Google

Activating consumers for improving the e-waste takeback and recycling system

By reframing consumer’s role as a proactive participant of the recycling value chain, we identified opportunities that can satisfy the needs of both consumers and recyclers while leveraging Google’s existing capabilities.

Business Landscape Analysis to identify status quo, challenges and needs
Experience Mapping to uncover opportunities for improving user experience
Vision Creation to define a strategic pathway for scaling impact

Our Approach

To find a viable direction for developing a successful TV waste takeback program, we first assessed the current TV waste recycling landscape in the U.S. and conducted a competitive analysis of industry players, initiatives and projects for benchmarking and innovation.

Our qualitative research included in-person interviews with industry experts and desk research, where we examined recycling businesses and takeback programs, existing and upcoming legislation, and prevalent market challenges.

This resulted in a consortium concept developed by INDEED that streamlines the collaboration among all stakeholders in the TV waste stream – recyclers, refurbishers, manufacturers, retailers, charity organization and state government, to help alleviate the current challenges of takeback logistics and costs.

Smart TV Market

The penetration rate of smart TV or internet-connected TV in the U.S. has been growing consistently, reaching the highest rate in 2022, with 87 percent of American households owning at least one internet-connected TV device, such as Apple TV and Google Chromecast. In a 2022 consumer survey, over 70% of U.S. households with internet connection own at least one smart TV. The S&P Global Market Intelligence reported that the average U.S. household owns and operates 2.5 TVs and the average smart TV ownership is 1.2 devices per household.

2.5 TVs per household
119 million Smart TV Users

In 2022, 74% of households own an average of 1.2 smart TVs:

  • 45% of internet-connected households own one smart TV
  • 29% own multiple smart TVs
  • 41% own Samsung, followed by Vizio(19%) and LG(18%).
  • Age group 35 – 54 had the highest rate of smart TV users, with 44% owning a connected or smart TV

TVs are hibernating at home

The Problem

A survey by National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) estimated that about 2.1 large electronic items are stored in the average home in the U.S., including TVs 21 inches or bigger.

The survey calculated that TV covers approximately 40% of household e-waste collection based on weight. Comparing devices by unit count, however, smartphones and tablets are returning to the recycling stream much more than TVs.

TV recycling is challenging for consumers and recyclers alike.

Consumers struggle to find up-to-date and complete information about available recycling services, eligibility criteria, and costs. Existing takeback services are limited and often exclude TVs, and the few available options are costly. Manufacturers and retailers offer limited recycling options that exclude TVs, and it is rare to find an accessible and comprehensive business that focuses on consumer experience in the recycling process.

“TV recycling is generally a cost, not a profitable venture”

Sr. Director, one of the major national e-waste recyclers in the U.S.

Equally, electronics recyclers consider TV recycling as undesirable and a prevalent challenge in the e-waste industry due to its substantial size and weight, hazardous material components, and costly collection process. The decreasing price of smart TVs also compounds the issue as manufacturers rely less on TV sales and more on monetizing personal information. The lack of demand for used TVs in resale markets and insufficient sales channels exacerbate the problem.

On-Demand TV Takeback

REDESIGNING a new recycling ecosystem that improves the consumer experience and participation in TV takeback and recycling

Our vision was an e-waste recycling service that Google offers in collaboration with e-waste recyclers, retailers, TV manufacturers, and charity organizations to streamline access to TV takeback options and improve the consumer experience of TV and e-waste recycling.

Leveraging ride-sharing business models and door-to-door delivery services for reverse logistics, we envisioned Google and its partners providing additional collection points to increase the consumer TV recycling rate. Google provides easy access to recycling options and a seamless user experience supported by a triage process that guides consumers to the most appropriate collection and materials recovery for their TVs.

Drivers for Successful Recycling

One of the critical findings was identifying the macro drivers for the success of such a recycling program. For example, regulations such as state-specific collection mandates can be a good indicator of whether people can have more convenient recycling programs in their neighborhoods or not. Local municipalities and states with landfill bans, EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility), or ARF (Advanced Recovery Fee) programs have the highest TV recycling rates in the U.S. Additionally, strong mandates mean a higher number of available collection points. Additionally, high population density and smart TV ownership are important predictors of potential market size and consumer demand for a TV recycling service.

We can mitigate the e-waste crisis if we decrease the logistics cost of recycling service providers and increase consumer convenience of e-waste recycling. Redefining the economic value of waste as resources and activating the consumers in the recycling ecosystem can be a viable first step in this direction.

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To help Google introduce an easy and affordable TV takeback solution for U.S. consumers INDEED created a strategic vision for improving the user experience and scaling the recycling rate.

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