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Discarded mobile phones in China difficult to recycle

CGTN | Updated: 2017-05-24 08:46

Discarded mobile phones in China difficult to recycle


When was the last time you bought yourself a phone? Do you change it often? And where are your old devices?

The rapid development of technology leads to frequent personal turnover of mobile phones. About 50 percent of users in China change to a new phone every 18 months, according to Chinanews.

However, alongside the high replacement rate is a low recycling rate. China now has about one billion unused mobile phones, but only two percent have been recycled with most of the rejected devices improperly handled.

Difficulties in recycling mobile phones

Several factors affect the recycling of old phones.

The resale value of old phones is one of the major reasons. "Selling a phone is more difficult than buying one," a citizen from Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province who has several smartphones lying idle at home, said. "I bought the phones for several thousand yuan, but sometimes can just get a fraction by selling them. I would rather keep them."

On the phone trade-in platform of Jingdong, China’s e-commerce company, the average recycling price for an old iPhone 7 is 3,258 yuan (about $473). However, the lowest price for a new iPhone 7 is 5,388 yuan (about $782), much higher than the recycling price.

Besides low price, many users are afraid of privacy disclosure, as mobile phones have become one of the most important tools for people not only to communicate with others, but store information.

Enterprises capable of processing waste phones require advanced technology and large investment, but the rewards are slow to arrive. A lack of sound policies, and subsidies, make it hard to enter the mobile processing industry.

Discarded mobile phones in China difficult to recycle

A device for mobile phone trade-in service in Jinan, Shandong province. [Photo/VCG]

Ways to address the problem

Currently, the biggest factor affecting phone recycling is customers’ awareness, according to insiders. Customers should develop the habit of part-trading their old devices for a replacement, said Xiong Zhou, co-founder of China’s phone recycling platform "huishoubao."

An unblocked and reliable recycling channel should be established, and ways to identify reliable traders determined, Xiong added.

Furthermore, a specific regulation about subsidy for the waste phone processing business would boost the whole industry.

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