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Recycling tech: the good, the bad and the ugly

Feb 24, 2014 | Green IT

Loving this story about what happens to iPhones when they are discarded. They end up being refurbished by Chinese workers into phones that look practically new irrespective of the state they get them in. Broken screens, damaged parts – no problem – they are replaced with after-market items. This even includes giving them new serial numbers and packaging them in boxes that make them look totally authentic. They have come home to the land of their birth!

iPhone recycling. Source

Unfortunately some IT recycling is a lot less pleasant than putting discarded iPhones back into their use in the country of their birth. Greenpeace campaigns on the matter and it  isn’t pretty. E-waste such as printed circuit boards (PCB) contains toxic substances which can pollute water supplies. And processing e-waste to get at the copper, iron, silicon, nickel and gold contained in it can be harmful to the person doing it.

The global volume of e-waste is growing inexorably, with the UN estimating it will increase by 33% over the next four years – and it is all heading towards the developing world. According to the article, one in three containers checked by Interpol and leaving the EU contained illegal e-waste. Much of this equipment can be repaired and reused rather than be smelted or dumped. We need more resourceful cottage industries like the Chinese iPhone recyclers.

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