Apple demands phone recyclers to scrap old iPhones, secretly sold in China.

Apple’s Environmental Protection Predicament

According to Bloomberg, Apple recently faced a significant setback despite its ongoing efforts to promote environmental protection. For instance, they have been emphasizing eco-friendly practices such as not including a charger with new phones. However, this decision to exclude chargers means additional expenses for users who have to purchase them separately. If iPhones start supporting fast charging, users will have to purchase original chargers separately for each generation, which can be quite costly.

Another controversial decision was to eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack. Moreover, Apple has been focusing on initiatives like carbon neutrality, reducing carbon footprints, improving energy efficiency, and promoting material recycling and reuse. They have partnered with organizations specialized in dismantling and recycling old device components. Some old and broken phones are scrapped in collaboration with third parties.

On Earth Day, April 22nd, Apple introduced a “good for you, good for the Earth” exchange and recycling program. However, Bloomberg reported an incident between Apple and a phone recycling company named GEEP. This company, a partner of Apple, was supposed to manage the disposal of Apple’s scrapped products every year. Reportedly, in the past two years, Apple provided 530,000 iPhones, 25,000 iPads, and 19,000 Apple Watches for disposal.

Surprisingly, GEEP decided to profit from these supposedly scrapped products. They found that many of the products slated for disposal were still in good condition and could be used. Acting in their own interest, they stealthily reintroduced these devices into the market. This action contradicted Apple’s environmental policies and was motivated by financial gains.

Subsequently, Apple discovered that nearly 99,975 of the disposed products were unaccounted for. These old iPhones were refurbished by the company—usually with minor changes like replacing the casing, updating the software, or restoring factory settings. Subsequently, these nearly 100,000 old iPhones were sold in China through resellers on second-hand platforms, generating significant economic benefits.

Bloomberg’s report analysis indicated that despite Apple suing the company and having ample evidence, the case was eventually dropped. This decision was likely influenced by the fact that during the trial, questions would be raised about how these supposedly scrapped products were still usable. This situation contradicted Apple’s strong environmental stance, leading to a potential negative impact on the brand’s reputation. Consequently, the lawsuit was withdrawn.

Leaving aside the Apple and the phone recycling company’s affair, the question arises: who bought the 100,000 old iPhones that entered the Chinese market? It is undeniable that Apple provided products for disposal that were likely manufactured many years ago, with their functionality greatly diminished. Nevertheless, even in this condition, there is a demand for these old devices in China. Whether they are sold at low prices or are sought after due to the Apple brand remains a mystery. Nonetheless, over the years, the durability of Apple’s old phones seems commendable.

Although the older iPhone models may lack some configurations and functionalities, with many apps requiring significant memory space, the influx of numerous old iPhones into the Chinese market is a point of concern. Therefore, potential buyers of older iPhone models should be cautious. Opting for domestically manufactured entry-level smartphones might be a more practical choice instead of purchasing these aged iPhone models. Sending these old iPhones to China seems unreasonable, and it is advisable for those interested in buying such phones to exercise caution.

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