Can Watches and Smartwatches Be Recycled?


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Understanding the nuances of recycling and how, or if, you can recycle your watch are questions that a lot of people ask. With this in mind, we are going to dive into recycling within the watch industry and give you a better understanding of how you can recycle your timepiece, where, and if you even can for certain models.

There are several ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose old watches. Smartwatch manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, also have recycling programs. Other recycling options include gifting old watches to charity, giving them to watchmakers to repurpose working parts of even artists that make creative artwork out of old watches. 

By the end of this article, you should have a better idea about recycling your watches and although different countries vary, the core concepts are mostly similar.

What Defines Recycling a Watch?

The actual definition of recycling is converting something into reusable material or re-using it to extend its life cycle.

This means that you do not have to give your watch away for nothing, and you have a few options if you do not want it to be scrapped or left unworn in your bedside dresser.

Let’s look at three of the options that would come under the definition of recycling:

Recycle via Scrap – the most common form of recycling and the one we are all most familiar with, this is giving the timepiece to a relevant organization or charity that can sell or scrap it.

Recycle via Sale – you can look at selling your watch on various online platforms from eBay, to local marketplaces like Craigslist, or on more contemporary clothing sales apps. This way you can ‘recycle’ your watch and get some money back for your old timepiece.

Recycle via Shop – finding a shop to recycle your watch can be tricky, but if you go into a pawn shop or a cash converter, you are likely to be able to recycle (sell) your watch with them. As long as it is in good condition and still holds some value.

Watch Recycling FAQs

In this section, we will look at some of the common questions people ask around watch recycling. This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully will cover the most Frequently Asked Questions around watch recycling.

Can You Recycle a Watch?

Yes, to summarize you have three key options for your watch – Donate, Recycle or Reuse.

Donate – give your watch to charity so it can be sold or used to help the organization. Not only is this good for the environment, but you will be doing some good with your old watch.

Recycle – find a retailer, local recycling center, or company that will take your old watch or smartwatch. As we have looked at, you can even give it to the manufacturer. There are even artists that will upcycle old watches into new jewelry or accessories.

Reuse – before you get rid of your watch or smartwatch, reach out to friends or family, you may be able to find a new owner for it and save yourself the hassle.

Can You Recycle a Smartwatch?

Similar to the above, you can also recycle a Smartwatch, using any of the above methods.

The only stipulation would be that with some methods you will need to ensure you have the Smartwatch in a certain condition:

Undamaged – the watch needs to be in good shape as a rule of thumb

Charging Cable – you will need to include the cable if you are looking at recycling your smartwatch unless you are giving it back to the company that will probably not need it.

Box and Instructions – providing additional information such as the instructions and box will help the recycling of your smartwatch, whether it be via donation, sale, or reuse.

Do Watch Companies Help You Recycle?

Yes, and in fact, some are even trying to produce a much more sustainable watch supply chain and are creating watches that are made from 100% recycled products.

Each company will have its own policy and methods, but there has been a huge shift towards accountability and providing solutions to recycle and reduce their impact and there are a growing number of sustainable watch brands on the market.

Do Smartwatch Companies Help You Recycle?

The short answer is yes, there are a lot of schemes set up by companies in recent years to combat their carbon footprint and increase their green agendas.

Let’s look at a couple of popular examples from two of the biggest technology companies out there Samsung and Apple.

Samsung – this tech giant has a whole section of their website and company dedicated to Sustainability and recycling Samsung Smartwatches & products. They operate with a closed-loop recycling system, meaning old products will be used to make new ones.

Apple – there are detailed guides on how to recycle your Apple Watch but they are happy to help you trade in your older Apple models for credit towards a newer purchase. Similar to Samsung they tend to refurbish or recycle the products on a closed-loop.

Where Can You Recycle a Watch?

One of the most common places that accept watches is charities. You will have to find a specific charity that deals with them, but they will be recycled or re-sold to help raise money for the charity.

Each charity will have its own list of things they can accept and things they can not. There are even some groups online that you can request a special charity bag to mail off, these vary from country to country, so check your local options.

Can You Recycle a Watch Through Household Recycling Collections?

Although each country has different recycling rules and exceptions, commonly, watches CANNOT be recycled through your household recycling collection.

On a similar note, household waste recycling centers and similar locations do not typically accept watches or jewelry as part of their remit.

You will need to give your watch or jewelry to a specialist or a charity.

Are Watchmakers Becoming More Sustainable?

recycle symbol on watch dial

Yes, one of the driving factors in businesses across the world in recent years has been sustainability and reducing the impact on the environment.

This is one of the core principles of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which has a lot of luxury watchmakers signed up, from Cartier to Omega, to LVMH.

5 Reasons to Recycle Your Watch

There are a ton of reasons to recycle your watch,  and each person will have their own reason or definition of what recycling entails.

With this in mind, we are going to look at a few examples and put the recycling watch concept into context.

  1. Help a Charity – giving your old timepiece to a charity is a simple but effective way to help donate and improve others’ lives. Ensure you give it to one who can handle specialist items like watches or jewelry.
  2. Make Some Money – you can ‘recycle’ your watch by selling it to someone else and if you have a higher-end watch you will be able to get a good amount of money for selling it.
  3. Upgrade and Trade – some watch stores will give you store credit or cash if you trade in your watch, which you can put towards a newer model or something different in the shop.
  4. Make a Friend’s Day – sometimes it is a good idea to look closer to home, and see if any of your family or friends are in the market for a watch. This way you can ‘recycle’ your watch to someone you know and reduce wastage.
  5. Reduce ‘Fast Fashion’ – we are all aware of the growing importance of being more environmentally conscious and promoting green actions. One of the simple reasons to recycle is to reduce your fashion footprint and be greener.

Watch Recycling Summary

Hopefully, now you have a good grasp of watch recycling and can conduct any further localized research you need to do to find the right solution for your timepiece.

One of the best things about the watch industry is the sheer variety of models and options available. But it can also be a downside if we are not environmentally conscious and aware of our recycling options.

Ensuring you do your part to keep the industry moving forward and recycling your watches is a great way to help not only yourself but everyone else interested in watches.

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