30% of Fitness Trackers Are Abandoned But One Company Found a Way to Recycle Them

Taking charge of one’s fitness became easier than ever since the birth of the fitness tracker and companies like Fitbit and Apple that manufacture them. However, 30% of these fitness trackers are abandoned in drawers to collect dust. While the wearable device market is a popular one, the craze dies down with some consumers who end up tossing their gadget out or forgetting they even had one.

One company has found a way to recycle these gadgets and it’s called Recycle Health, a nonprofit working out of Tufts Medical School. So far the group has collected more than 5,000 wearable devices since it began in 2015. The gadgets are being donated to organizations working with low-income, vulnerable populations for use in nutrition and exercise programs. Recycle Health collects the fitness trackers, refurbishes them and then shares them with underserved populations.

Lisa Gualtieri, an assistant professor at Tufts Medical School, is requesting for consumers to send her their unwanted fitness trackers which includes Fitbits, Apple Watches and other health-tracking gadgets. Gualtieri has reached out to wearable device companies and have asked them to share older models they couldn’t sell. While Fitbit, Fossil and Withings have all sent devices, Apple has not donated. Recycle Health has also received donations from popular tourist sites, like the Statue of Liberty as well as human resources departments at companies.

Surveys from the research firm Gartner has noted about 30 percent of smart watches and fitness trackers are abandoned. According to Gualtieri, this was a waste. “When the typical person walks into Best Buy and gets a Fitbit on a whim, that’s a totally different experience than having the support of health coaches or others in the community who can help with sustained behavior change,” she said.

Liza Peck, who works as a support services liaison at HomeFront, a New Jersey homeless shelter for families, is making trackers available to families who are ready for them. “We encourage manageable goals,” she remarked. She said about 100 people so far have used the trackers, including the kids. “We recognize that health is often a luxury item. “The people with fewer obstacles in life have more tools,” she added.