19 Oct, 2015
Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), October 13, 2015 – “When I bought a new cell phone, it was already obsolete,” a man surnamed Chen said. He works in Shenzhen, southern China, which leads the country’s electronics industry.
Chen’s confusion is not an isolated case. Nowadays, with the rapid updating of mobile phones, dealing with abandoned handsets has become a big problem.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, the number of mobile phone users in the country has reached 1,146 million. In 2014, 425 million mobile phones were sold in China, while the number of new users was only 56.98 million, which shows that the country has a lot of discarded phones each year.
|Cell phone components contain various valuable materials, such as 0.01 percent gold, 20 percent-25 percent copper and 40 percent -50 percent renewable plastic. (File Photo)|
“Every year, 90 percent of the increase in the number of mobile phones in China is the replacement of old phones with new,” said Sun Wenping, President of industry association Shenzhen Cellular.
When 425 million phones were sold in 2014, around 400 million others were abandoned because of advances in technology, such as with the development of 2G to 4G, encouraging many to start using smartphones. “Other people replaced their phones because they were broken or out of fashion,” added Sun.
The frequent upgrading of cell phones, especially in such huge numbers, has caused a significant increase in electronic waste, and leaves more “collections” old cell to people.
According to Sun, most recycled cell phones are classified and refurbished to be sold on the second hand market. Phones that cannot be used directly are dismantled with some of the parts being reused while others are discarded. Phones that are completely useless are burned directly as waste.
According to a cell phone trader surnamed Zhang, who conducts his mobile business in Shenzhen, most mobile phones sold there have been refurbished or contain used parts of obsolete mobile phones. “But no one knows where the useless parts go,” he said.
Experts indicated that an obsolete cell contains at least 20 types of hazardous substances that can harm the environment. Improper handling or careless disposal of these mobile phones will cause severe contamination of the soil and groundwater and seriously threaten human health. According to experts, a “cell battery can contaminate 60,000 liters of water, which could be enough water to use for a lifetime.”
However, with proper treatment, obsolete mobile phones are a “mountain of gold.” According to the industry news, cell phone components contain various valuable materials, such as 0.01 percent gold, 20 percent-25 percent copper and 40 percent -50 percent renewable plastic. After being removed and recycled, the remaining obsolete parts were crushed, but the motherboards are used for the refining of precious metals such as silver, platinum and palladium.
China has begun to pay attention to this problem. In 2014, the Department of Economics and Environmental Protection of the National Development Commission heard public comments for adjusting a draft treatment catalog of abandoned electronic products, which listed cell phones as an important project. This will end the chaos of recycling and encourage formal businesses to start servicing this area.