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Cellular Phone Recycling in China

16 Aug

Brian Walter James Y. De Los Reyes                                                                         June 21, 2011

SocSci180 JX                                                                                     Prof. Narcisa Paredes-Canilao

Cellular Phone Recycling in China

An Account

            There have been many problems that arose in the age of modern technology.  It is hard to label problems as separate with each other like when we say environmental problems and social problems because actually both are connected to each other.  There are varieties of problems that started to exist because of this fast developing human knowledge although I believe it is unfair to say that technology advances and are still benefitting from it.

Years ago, waste only come in the form of easily manageable waste like biodegradable wastes.  But recently, in the peak on electronic age, there also exists the idea of electronic wastes or e-waste.  To simply explain it, these are wastes that are primarily from electronic products which are already non-functional or are already disposed by owners.  This phenomena of e-waste is alarming for the reason that there is an increasing amount of waste from electronic items and more alarming fact is that improper disposal of such waste may be harmful to the environment, to humans and hence to the whole of the society at worse.  These electronic wastes contain toxic substances that can harm our health when they are not properly managed.

As a response to the increasing amount of electronic wastes, some countries, like China developed a strategy to manage the problem and that is recycling.  “The frequency of China’s mobile phone users changing used phones is accelerating, and as the adoption and promotion of 3G technologies by the 2008 Olympic Games, used phones will step into a more substantial growth period.  Thus, how to deal with these used mobile phones has become an important environmental problem” (Yang, 2008).  As stated, the rate of people changing their mobile phones increased due to factors like the release of new phone technologies like 3G and some events in their locale and that is the Olympics which was held in China.  Hence, if people change phones sooner than before, it explicitly implies that there will be more phones to be disposed and another alarming fact is that not all people are knowledgeable on the proper way of disposing wastes like old cellular phones.  This led to the recycling of old cellular phone items in China.

The recycling of cellular phones is done in various ways.  It is done either by reconditioning old phones and reprogramming or by extracting minerals from specific parts.  There is actually an advantage of this cell phone recycling industry to the economy of China but more importantly to the environment.  First is that these recycled phones suffice the needs of certain buyers because of the low prices (Yang, 2008).  This means that access to wireless communication among people who are not capable of buying cell phone units that are expensive is easier with the presence of cellular phone recycling in China.  Second is that, this phone gives the opportunity to reuse mobile phones and exhaust possible resources and consequently results to the reduction of waste or resources (Yang, 2008).







The diagram is from The Report on E-waste Issues Related to Mobile Telecommunications in China by Dr. Yang.  It illustrates how the industry on recycled mobile phones extends the span of use of an item.  Instead of immediately abandoning an item, the recycling process provides more options.  The diagram illustrates that first, brand new phones are sold and then used by consumers and when they are already used then they are recycled.  After the process of recycling, these cellular phones are sold in secondhand markets.  The recycled items are either sols again in the market or reused.  In addition, since these wastes are processed and are recycled properly the possible harms and hazards that it can cause to the environment is already diminished.

Interestingly, the recycling of cellular phones in China is a systematic strategy towards maintaining the economy and at the same time making actions to minimize environmental damage.  Recycling keeps away the manufacturer form acquiring same materials and thus saving the cost of production and at the same time reducing e-wastes.

An interesting fact is that, there is a trend towards eco-friendly products.  This means that people tend to purchase products which are more environments friendly and also reduces the rate of environmental damage.  This is another factor behind the boom of the phone recycling industry in China.  Statistics show that China is one of the largest cellular phone consumers in the world (Yang, 2008).  This implies that they acquire more phones and thus they produce more used phones.  Hence, it is an advantageous strategy of China to look at the e-waste management issue properly because it does not only involve their booming economy but also the environment is an aspect that needs to be considered.

Can cellular phone recycling actually eliminate the problem on e-wastes?  Looking at the flow of recycled cellular phones, I am interested on the span to which the recycled phone can be used and how long it will take for it to be considered a totally un-recycled item.  In addition, I am also curious about the health threat to those who worked at recycling the used cellular phones.  I believe that the cell phone recycling industry is not a perfect project but looking at how it responds to the possible threats e-waste can bring, at some point it is beneficial especially in a country like China which as the report by Dr. Yang is the world’s largest phone consumer (Yang, 2008).



Yang, J. (2008).  A Report on E-wastes Issues Related to Mobile Telecommunications in China.  NTT DOCOMO, Inc. Research Institute of Solid Waste Management, Chinese Research Academy of Environemntal Sciences Beijing, P.R. China.  Retrieved from accessed June 18, 2011.


Recycling Cellphones in Shenzen, China

16 Aug

Cortes, Bernice Angeline M.                                                                                      June 21, 2011

2008- 54708                                                                                                                     SocSci 198


Recycling Cellphones in Shenzen, China


The sophistication of technology changes so fast that electronic waste already becomes one of the major problems in the world. These e-waste are from households, companies and other institutions. The major items of technology present in these wastes include cellular phones, computers and television for they are the products that are usually “upgraded” in terms of their design, style, and capacity plus other more features that can be added gradually in the product. The increasing number of consumers also adds to the advent of this dilemma; just imagine how many units of products are bought and will be changed for another after sometime.


This is perhaps another issue of the developed and developing world relationship. According to the head of Basel Action Network or BAN Jim Puckett, the developed world gets the benefit of the products but after they become unusable, the environmental risks are externalized in the developing countries (Carroll, 2008). BAN is an organization concerned about hazardous waste shipments and is trying to promote and monitor electronic recycling programs.

China is one of the largest graveyards for e-wastes. This is perhaps due to the fact that it is also a manufacturing giant in the world. Given these points, the Chinese are now recycling electronic items, especially that of cellular phones. Shenzen coined the name “cellphone recycling city” due to the concentration of the activity in the area (Kousemaker, 2010).


So what motivates them to recycle? One reason must be on the attempt to reduce risks on environment and health. China had in fact signed in the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified in 2002 (UNFCCC). The Kyoto Protocol encourages countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to control climate change. By recycling, vast amounts of energy can be saved compared with extracting virgin raw materials from the environment. Moreover, it reduces the amount of waste to be burned or buried, hence pollution is minimized (Zeller Jr., 2008). In 2009, China Mobile, the world’s largest telecommunication operator, completed an important aspect of its Green Action Plan: to decrease energy consumption and greenhouse emission by waste recycling (HUAWEI). Another reason for China’s recycling acts may be inclined to its profit concerns. The country has been focusing on solutions to poverty and actually lifted 600 million people from it between 1981 and 2004 (World Bank). Making things out of scraps probably has contributed to the success of this attempt apart from the support given to the Chinese government by world organizations.


Getting more up close to the potential motivations of recycling cellular phones in China, the first reason must be wrong. There are several accounts negating such claim of concern for environment and health risk. In 2002, BAN released a documentary about the reality in this illusion of responsibility. People are doing the “recycling” process dangerously. They burned wires to collect copper and melted motherboards to remove gold. These activities expose the people to fatal chemicals such as lead and dioxin, both causing cancer (Carroll, 2008). Scientists also examined the soil where the recyclable materials are located and found the same risks. China and other countries may recycle millions of cellphones a year but sometimes the quality of doing recycling matters more over quantity (BAN). Moreover, if China indeed has concern for health and environment, it should have implemented proper ways of recycling rather than letting people—most likely poor people—to go work and to recycle materials in the way they think they know it. There must have been say, appropriate briefing or seminars to inform people the risks in doing such activity. However, the hope to find out that there are these preventive measures is still on test.

Profit can be the reason for the action because the Chinese recycle what’s hot in the market. Cellular phones are indeed one of the most consumed products around the world; China alone has 889 million users (Nokia). This is a way to trace the benefit of selling phones out of scrap that is way cheaper than selling phones from all-virgin materials. An experiment was done by Jeffrey Weidenhamer in 2006 and was alarmed by the lead content in jewelries from China. He later found out that the lead might be from the manufacture of electronic circuit boards (Carroll, 2008). The useful materials form old gadgets are therefore taken without intensive examination regarding its impacts to health (CBS News). This is a further proof then that for the sake of cheap processing and selling at a certain price, recycling is advocated.



REFERENCES:, March 5, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2011.

Carroll, Chris. 2008. High-tech Trash. National Geographic, Vol. 213 No. 1. January., April 13, 2011.

Retrived June 20, 2011.;contentBody, retrieved June 19, 2011.,Green, retrieved June 19, 2011., retrieved June 19, 2011.

Kousemaker, David. 2010. Shenzen Phone Recycling., March 14. Retrieved June 19, 2011

Zeller, Jr, Tom. 2008. Recycling the Big Picture. National Geographic, vol. 213, no. 1. January.

The Cell Phone Recycling Industry and the Cell Phone Recycling in Shenzhen, China

16 Aug

Dela Cruz, Niki Beryl B.                                                                                        Soc Sci 180 – JX

2008 – 68733                                                                                                              June 21, 2011

The Cell Phone Recycling Industry and the Cell Phone Recycling in Shenzhen, China

            Cellular phones, as we all know, are widely used nowadays. It has become the major means of communication. In China, for instance, in the account written in 2008 by Zheng Mingqiao and Wang Jian (2008), there were 583 million cell phone users, and in an account written in 2011, China has already 889 million users which made it the country that “has the world’s largest mobile phone user population.” (2011) Millions of people use cell phones, and millions of people also dispose them after months of use and replace it with new ones. In response to this phenomenon, the Cell Phone Recycling was then introduced.

Among all the accounts that I have found, I chose two accounts that I think, best explain this phenomenon of cell phone recycling. First is the account which I already cited, Mingqiao and Jian’s article “Recycle of retired handsets has huge market potential”. The disposed mobile phones are regarded as electronic waste. It was said that, before, those disposed mobile phones were buried and burned and others were flowed to the second-hand market which, they say causes harm in the environment and society. “To discard or to burn the phones irresponsibly would cause terrible pollution to the environment, while to resell them would greatly influence the market order and the ecological environment.” By this, we can say that the reason why this phenomenon occurred is to avoid harm to the environment and society that these electronic wastes could bring. Through studies, they found out that “the raw materials of cell-phone contain more than ten kinds of valuable metals including gold, silver, copper and cobalt” and that its plastic can be used “make furniture, toys and auto parts; the packaging materials can be reproduced into fiberboard; the rechargeable batteries can be used to make television picture tube…”. These shows that recycling cell phones would enable us save resources and maximize the use of these materials by reusing them in creating other products. This trend of cell phone recycling came to China in 2005 when the “Green Boxes” project, an “environment protection plan” was launched. But prior to this, there were already electronic wastes recycling existed in other countries. It was brought to China “in order to realize scientific industrialization of cell-phone recycling”. Aside from the fact that there are many disposed cell phone in China because there are many cell phone users there, they had also established an institution that “specialized in dealing with recycling and treating electronic waste” which helped the industry to developed, the Shanghai Central WEEE Recycling Co., Ltd. From then, many other companies in China followed the trend of cell phone recycling.


The second account that, for me, best explains, this phenomenon is a entry entitled “How China Recycles Millions of Cellphones Every Year” (2001). If in the first article, they talked about cell phone recycling, in general, and cell phone recycling in China, the article tackled about cell phone recycling in Shenzhen, China. The blogger, which is not named, quoted another blogger David, who had witnessed the rampancy of this phenomenon in that city. He told how cell phones are recycled and even showed pictures of how they are done. Shenzhen was labelled as the “cell phone recycling city”. It could be because there is a part of it that is primary dedicated to cell phones, the “hidden corner of Hua Qiang Bei”.

I chose the two articles because I did not found a single article that explains the nature and “what abouts” of cell phone recycling particularly in Shenzhen. The first article showed the cause and the developments of cell phone recycling while the second one showed that Shenzhen plays a big role in the cell phone recycling industry as it make the industry very alive with the big market of recycled cell phones and factories of cell phone recycling exist there. The first would answer “what about cell phone recycling?” or “why recycle cell phones?” and while the second one will answer “how is cell phone recycling in Shenzhen?”. I think, with these two accounts together, we can have the inference to the best explanation.





Mingqiao, Zheng & Wang Jian (2008). Recycle of retired handsets has huge market potential. Retrieved: June 19, 2011  Retrieved: June 19, 2011





























Recycle of retired handsets has huge market potential

Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-10-20 09:32


By Zheng Mingqiao and Wang Jian
With the fast development of the communication industry, tens of millions of cell-phones are being replaced each year in China. For the lack of effective recovery system, a great many of retired cell-phones were buried and burned, or flowed to the second-hand market, which have caused great harm to the environment and society. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the number of cell-phone users has reached 583 million in China by the end of April this year. Experts estimate that in 2008 there will be as many as 200 million cell-phones replaced in China. Suppose each phone is 100 grams in weight, there will be twenty thousand tons electronic wastes in a year.
How to recycle and deal with these used phones has become a topic of concerns. To discard or to burn the phones irresponsibly would cause terrible pollution to the environment, while to resell them would greatly influence the market order and the ecological environment.
The recycled value exceeds one hundred million Yuan.
Statistics show that the raw materials of cell-phone contain more than ten kinds of valuable metals including gold, silver, copper and cobalt. Through scientific decomposition, at least 150 gram of gold, 3 kilogram of silver and 100 kilogram of copper can be extracted from one ton of used cell-phones, which is thirty times more than the gold ore; the cell-phone plastic can be used to make furniture, toys and auto parts; the packaging materials can be reproduced into fiberboard; the rechargeable batteries can be used to make television picture tube…
The number of retired cell-phones in China is increasing at a rate of five to ten percent each year. Zhu Qiaoling, a professor from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, believes that if recycle of used cell-phones can be systemized, it would make a “Golden Industry” with vast potential.
It’s learned that this “Golden Industry” in foreign countries is very mature and makes a unique industrial chain. British Foneback Corporation is reclaiming old phones by offering new ones through cell-phone retailers. Cell-phones that are still usable will be renovated with quality guarantee and sold at a relative low price; those un-renewable phones will be disassembled to extract metal materials such platinum, gold, silver, copper and plastic, which will be sent to specialized companies to be reused. Now Fonebak has reclaimed more than 3.5 million of cell-phones, creating annual revenue of over sixty million pounds.
In America, a cooperation program of voluntary recycling of electronic products was launched in 2003, in which the government, producers, retailers and consumers together took on the recovery obligation, and remarkable economic result has been achieved. It’s calculated that the recycling of one hundred million cell-phones equals to the saving of power consumption of 194,000 American households in one year. Japan has made laws to promote cell-phone reclamation to ensure the supply of rare metals. In 2006, it has collected 6,622,000 used cell-phones. After burning at low temperature, most of the rare metals, such as platinum, indium and lithium, contained in these phones can be extracted and reused.
Business model needs to be established.
In recent years, in order to realize scientific industrialization of cell-phone recycling, researches have been carried out actively in China. At the end of 2005, China Mobile, through cooperation with cell-phone producers including Motorola and Nokia, started the “Green Box” environment protection plan in forty key cities in China, by placing “Green Boxes” to recycle used cell-phones and parts in over one thousand China Mobile service outlets and hundreds of cell-phone sales centers. Now these “Green boxes” have collected tens of thousands of retired cell-phones and parts.
In March of last year, the former Ministry of Information Industry cooperated with Tianjin Government and set up the state-level demonstration base for the recovery and disassembly of retired electronic products; in May, Shanghai Central WEEE Recycling Co., Ltd. was established, specialized in dealing with the recycling and treatment of electronic wastes; in July, Shanghai Xikui Electronic Technology Co., Ltd. (Beijing Branch) was designated as the experiment unit for the recovery, treatment and reuse of cell-phone products. The recovery of retired electronic products started and spread to all aspects.
Many cell-phone producers and sellers have also joined the activity of cell-phone recycling. Besides the “Green Box” plan, Gome Communication Inc. under Gomes Group initiated the recovery program of retired cell-phones in May this year. Over 1200 Gomes stores in China set up recycling boxes and encouraged cell-phone recycling in various ways.
However, with the absence of mature business models, it’s still hard to find a good destination for the large amount of used cell-phones. If the cell-phone recycling stays at the level of “responsibility” and “obligation”, relied only on governmental mandate and the self-discipline of companies, it would greatly suppress the enthusiasm of cell-phone users and participating companies. Therefore there must be reasonable profit driving mechanism and effective business operation model between government, producers, retailers and users, so as to realize the systemized recycling.
It’s a matter of urgency to adopt the method of “producer responsibility extension” to promote industrialized recycling. “Cell-phone manufacturers and recycling units are still working separately in China, which leads to difficulties in the recycling business.” Sun Yong, a professor from economy department of Huazhong Normal University, believes that producer obligation laws need to be established, in order to regulate the recovery obligation by law. “On one hand, manufactures should be encouraged to make ‘green cell-phones’ which are easy to recycle. On the other hand, producers and recycling units should be urged to enhance the cooperation and establish the ecological chain of cell-phone recovery and reutilization.” Sun Yong expressed that only mutual cooperation among upper-stream and lower-stream companies can promote the desirable circle of cell-phone production, sales, recovery and reutilization.

China has the world’s largest mobile phone user population, at an incredible 889 million. And 29.6 % of these users buy Nokia devices. But what happens when the Chinese, who on average change their device every 15 months, want a new one? Most of them unfortunately just throw their old phone away with as few 1% recycled. To combat this trend Nokia introduced the “Green Box” project in 2005. This concept introduced collection boxes at more than 700 Nokia service centers at mobile phone retail outlets in nearly 300 cities. To see what happens to those Nokia devices that don’t get recycled there, check out these amazing pictures, taken by Dutch Artist/Designer David Kousemaker.

Cellphone recycling city

In 2010, David’s fascination for the impact technology has on culture lead him to Shenzen, Guangdong Province, where he documented how cellphones are traded as a commodity or even as a raw material. David writes on his blog Tech Travels, “In a hidden corner of Hua Qiang Bei there are two large buildings that are primarily dedicated to cellphones. One entrepreneur I talked to, told me he bought his phones in bulk from a wholesaler who got them from garbage sorters in Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia.”

“Outside,” he writes, “I see a guy sorting through big bags of phone circuit boards. I’m not sure but I think he might be picking out the ones with particular chipsets that are in demand right now.”

The plastic shells are also then removed. David says, “There isn’t much money to be made there, but the low price of Chinese labor makes it worth someone’s time to separate the last bits of metal from the plastic.”

Then the components are picked off one by one and sorted.

“Next,” David says, “the solder is removed and the components are cleaned and sorted further. For many of the shops, this seems to be the main activity. With some exceptions, this work seems to be predominantly done by teenage girls and young women.”

Some of the parts are so small they can only be handled with tweezers.

If you want to see more of the amazing shots David’s taken, of the unintended ecosystems that spring up around consumer electronics in developing nations, check out his blog. We’re sure you’ll agree his pictures give an amazing insight into how electronic “junk” can be reused and recycled.

And if you know of any more markets around the world where phones are taken apart like this, please do let us know.


CellPhone Recycling to Reduce E-Waste? an investigation to the argument’s IBE

16 Aug

MONTERA, Krisel M.                                                                                    Social Science 180



CellPhone Recycling to Reduce E-Waste?

an investigation to the argument’s IBE



The average life of cell phones today is only 18 months or less (Sawyer and Hering, 2005). Because of the unstoppable and rapid innovation in cell phone technology, the tendency of people (with or without money) is to crave for better and newer gadgets and satisfy such craving at any cost. Because of this, cell phones getting discarded or thrown is as well ballooning. Much of the electronic material that is old and outdated tends to go to trash. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refers to the electronic product that are discarded and/or disposed by consumers as e-waste (electronic waste) or e-trash (Torres, 2011). E-wastes like cell phones contain an amount of lead, mercury, cadmium and other chemical materials that contrast to its fascinating features are toxic to human body and environment. More serious thing about e-wastes is that they are not getting any less. In US, 2.5 million cell phones are dumped every week (Sawyer and Hering, 2005).

In order to try to remedy such toxic problem, large cell phone and other electronic products company introduce this old yet unnoticed way– recycling. Recycling companies like ReCellular in Hong Kong now target people’s awareness about the benefits of a recycling (Ralf Jurien, 2007). Through donating, you can already reach out to marginalized sector of society because donated cell phones that still function are given to homeless senior citizen and oppressed women so that they at least have an immediate access to emergency calls. Broken cell phones on the other hand are further broken down to properly remove, dispose or reuse its chemical materials (Sawyer and Hering, 2005). Moreover, donating unwanted cell phones minimizes manufacturers’ need for more raw materials and thus lessens environmental abuse and degradation. More so, proper dumping of cell phone and spare parts in your backyard can contribute to environmental violence because cell phones contain material that are non-degradable and in time can cause cancer. But still the best feature, donating old cell phone can give monetary advantages. Recycling companies are ready and are willing to give fair and reasonable remuneration for your unwanted cell phone (,n.d).

Given the above benefits, it quite seems that recycling is a win-win game. You get paid for helping the environment. But this is not quite so for some other cases. One documentary of the program 60 minutes in U.S. exposed the unattractive side of recycling and more aggravating problem of e-waste particularly in China. Donors go to one recycling company in US to give their e-waste on the assumption that their e-waste will be properly disposed and broken down to see if some material can be reused. But the program found out that the truck carrying donated computer monitors went overseas to dump such e-waste, where? To Hong Kong! In contrast to the company’s thrust that the e-waste of the donors will be disposed or recycled properly inside the US only. The operation is underground. The wasteland excretes too much toxics that one breath of air there can already cause cancer, mutation, and other fast killing diseases. Despite that fact, there are still households in there (consisting mostly of children) and it is being used as fortress of some local gang. They “illegally” recycle the e-waste and sell the reusable parts to street passers-by. This is very dangerous most of all because ordinary people without proper tools for safety recycling got to recycle not just plastics or can, but toxic and poisonous e-waste (60Minutes, 2011). Shenzhen, China is a large market for recyclable – be it legal or illegal, small or large scale. This is where gangs go to sell the reusable electronic parts that they got from the e-waste land. If we take recycling as an effect, it is easy and plausible to say that given the above evidences, health, economic and political matters can be the cause.

E-waste management is indeed an issue—knowing when and what electronic product must be disposed of is crucial. But more critical is to know where or to whom are your recyclable or non-recyclable e-waste should be trusted upon. It’s just easy to clean up our closet and dump our garbage properly pretending that most of all this is because we are concerned and we care for our environment. Perhaps what you care for most are the personal selfish benefits from acting accordingly and properly. To this, I say that it is still pseudo-concern. Our least responsibility to our goal that may be called sustainable development does not end to proper waste (toxic and ordinary) disposal. May we take our responsibility further—up to knowing who takes care and what they do to your waste.

To scholars it’s not enough that they know, they publish. And to us ordinary citizen, it can’t be enough that we know, we should act.
























CBSNews. 2011. 60Minutes: Following The trail of Toxic E-waste. Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011 free content article directory. n.d. Show Some Courtesy to Your Home Planet, the Earth. Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011 free content article directory. n.d.Cell Phone Recycling is the Best Alternative to Reduce E-Trash. Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011



Jurrien. 2007. ReCellular Cell Phone Recycling. Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011



ReCellular News. 2011. n.a. retrieved from: Accessed 18 June 2011


Sawyer and Hering. 2005. CellPhone Recycling: Donate Your Old Mobile Phone. Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011


Torres. 2011. Introduction to Electronic Waste: What is E-Waste? Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2011



Inference to the Best Explanation: Cell Phone Recycling in Shenzhen, China

16 Aug

Gutierrez, Liahona A.                                                                                     August 2, 2011

08-23969                                                                                                         Soc Sci 180 – JX

Inference to the Best Explanation: Cell Phone Recycling in Shenzhen, China

Cell phones are rampant nowadays and termed to be a necessity. Due to technological advances, newer versions are released that caused degradation of older versions. Because of this, people ought to replace their old cell phones with new ones. In connection to this, there have been many ways devised by men in order to reduce pollution caused by throwing away old cell phones. One way is recycling. Now, cell phones to be (or once) dumped can be remodeled and reused.

In Shenzhen, China, cell phone recycling exists. In an article at tech Travel (2010), it was able to show how vast the market of cell phone recycling. The article was able to show how huge the number of dumped cell phones is.  There are pictures that show how thorough and meticulous the way the parts of a phone are being detached from each other. The small pieces got from the phone go into groups for repacking and then, be delivered to factories to form recycled cell phones. According to Mark Peters (2007), Shenzhen receives two million cell phones annually. Why is Shenzhen the place where most of the reject cell phones located?

In CBSNews web site, an article entitled Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste (2010) was written regarding where do America’s reject cell phoesn go. United of America’s population is extremely big and I wonder if each of its citizen would throw their cell phones and have new ones, how many old cell phones would add up to the world’s waste? The 60 Minutes team found out that the reject cell phones of USA are not really properly disposed (CBSNews, 2010). Cell phones have toxins and chemicals hazardous to human populace (CBSNews, 2010). The team found out that rejected phones are contained to a ship and was dispatched in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong (CBSNews, 2010).

Geographically, Shenzhen is in the northern part of Hong Kong (from official web site of Shenzhen). This can be a reason why the city is always loaded with reject cell phones. It can be concluded that once the ship from USA was unloaded in Hong Kong, the cell phones will be delivered to Shenzhen. This can be possible since they are neighboring places.

Another reason can be drawn out with the basis of history. In 1980, Shenzhen was considered to be the first economic zone of China (from official website of Shenzhen). Because of this, it would be probable that the city has strong magnet of business. The cell phones could have been delivered there because of the high possibility of this kind of cell phone to be sold here.

Shenzhen was considered to be one of the “firsts in the history of world industrialization, urbanization and modernization” (from official web site of Shenzhen). Because of this historical background, there is also a reason why cell phones are being brought in this place to be improved or be used again.

In addition, the city is the first to use GDP green which is defined as “index of economic growth with environmental consequences of that growth factored in, as a performance measure for the city’s development. The economic development of this city also features low-cost, low-energy consumption but high yields and high profit” (from official website of Shenzhen). A reason why rejected phoned are being brought here is because the city is perceived of having the capacity to do something to use again those which were considered to be a waste. A reason why the city accept these reject phoned is because their goal of being efficient through low cost but having high profits. Buying rejects would mean buying in a low price. When the rejects were transformed into improved cell phones, these can be sold in a higher price. This technique or strategy made them more profitable.

From these explanations of why reject cell phones are very rampant in Shenzhen, the explanation of economic is the best explanation and the history-based is the second best explanation. This is because in the geographic-based explanation, Hong Kong can dispatch the rejects to another neighbors (instead of Shenzhen) and so there is no concrete reason of why Shenzhen. The history-based is not the best but could still be a reason because history has the capability to affect the present and the future. So being the first center of economy would give us reason to believe that the city could be able to create new market for rejected cell phones. In addition, the economic process of profit maximization could still be considered as the best since it is able to convey that the present goal of the city could have an effect on its action –the recycling of cell phones which was considered of the world to be waste but in deeper perspective, a profitable waste.












Peters, Mark (2007). Mobile Phone Recycling Facility. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

TechTravel (2010). Shenzhen – Phone recycling -1- “ Techtravels. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

TechTravel (2010). Shenzhen – Phone recycling -2- “ Techtravels. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

TechTravel (2010). Shenzhen – Phone recycling -3- “ Techtravels. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

TechTravel (2010). Shenzhen – Phone recycling -4- “ Techtravels. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

Shenzhen Official Website. Retrieved last June 20, 2011 in

CBSNews (2010). Following The Trail of Toxic E-Waste. Retrived last June 20, 2011 in




Cell Phone Recycling: IBE

16 Aug

De Guzman, Maricor Pauline B.                                                                                        08-57757

Soc Sci 180                                                                                                                 21, June 2011

Cell Phone Recycling: IBE

Hypothesis 1: It is probable that cell phone recycling in Shenzhen China started as a means to combat global environmental problems.

Hypothesis 2: It is also probable that cell phone recycling started because there is profit in it.

These two hypotheses may seem to be contradicting however, it is not. In an attempt to reconcile this, I came up with an argument, that is, for me, the account that would best explain the issue at hand.

Main Hypothesis: Companies in Shenzhen China saw a large profit from cell phone recycling. Since we are currently experiencing environmental crisis, and china has to deal with their carbon emissions they thought that it is good to propose cell phone recycling as their means to address environmental problems. Thus, cell phone recycling started as source of profit and later on became a proposed solution to environmental crisis in China.

Most evidences that I have gathered imply that cell phone recycling is China’s answer to environmental problems. By recycling cell phones they were able to save energy and minimize their carbon emission. I also gathered evidences that deal with the green project of some companies, “Green boxes”, wherein cell phone boxes were distributed in different places so that people can put their old cell phones there. As such, it is much easier for the companies to collect them and recycled them into new cell phones or new products (___, 2006).

While this is so, there are also evidences that point out that many corporations involved in it were able to make profit from it. Some of my evidences deal with the components of cell phones. It says there that cell phones have different metal components. Some of these are gold, silver, copper and lead. Companies in Shenzhen that were involved in such project are extracting such metals to create new products (Dkousemaker, 2010).

The reason why I hypothesized that the main cause of cell phone recycling in Shenzen, China is because of the facts that I have read about some of the companies in China that deals with cell phone recycling. Among the companies I have investigated are the Huawei, Konka, and China mobile. These companies have common vision, that is, to ensure that their customers will have quality cell phones. Thus, priority is not the environment but their customers. Moreover, I also arrived at this hypothesis because of many advertisements of these companies (and many others) of their recycled cell phone products in the internet.  Although this is not that good evidence, I think that such advertisements tell something about the aims of these companies i.e. Profit.


With regards to cell phone recycling as a solution to environmental problems, there are many evidences that can support this. However, I also found some evidences which show that cell phone recycling in Shenzen China produces toxic waste that harms the environment and the people in the vicinity. Thus, cell phone recycling being environment friendly may not be true at all and it is just a cover up to the real aim of the corporations in Shenzen, China.


























“Recellular Operations reach three continents, phone recycling facilities open in China and Brazil”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 19 June 2011

Dkousemaker,  “Techtravels: Shenzhen – Phone recycling -1-4”-. March 2010. Retrieved in:, 2, 3, 4. Last accessed: 19 June 2011

“Huawei”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 21 June 2011.

“Second-hand recycling companies in Shenzhen Zhongxin”. Retrieved in:

“China Mobile: Case Study”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 21 June 2011

“Our “Green Action Plan,” Building an Environmental Management System”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 21 June 2011

 “China Mobile Extends Green Box Program”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 21 June 2011

“Chinese Companies Form Green Mobile Phone Alliance”. June 2010. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 21 June 2011

“China Mobile Commits to Energy Conservation”. Retrieved in:  Last accessed: 21 June 2011

“China Mobile world”. Retrieved in:

How China recycles millions of cellphones every year”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 19 June 2011.

“Low-cost e-waste recycling in China releasing catalogue of pollutants”. Retrieved in: Last accessed: 19 June 2011

“UN warns India and China over growing problem of e-waste”. February,2010.  Retrieved in: Last accessed: 19 June 2011



Phone Recycling in Shenzhen China

4 Aug

Bryan-Robert F. Martinez                                                                                           Prof. Canilao

2008-09633                                                                                                                 SocSci 180


Phone Recycling in Shenzhen China


Phone recycling is one of the newest trend in environmental projects and programs in different countries around the world. Many organizations in the world, whether it is government or non-government organizations, supports the advocacies of phone recycling as a solution to the depleting natural resources of the planet. It is also a means of minimizing the pollution brought about by the improper disposal of defective phones which can be harmful to any life forms because of its radioactive content.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world that is why it is also has the largest mobile phone user population, approximately 889 million in number (Nokia Blogs, 2011). Because of a large number of phone users, it may also imply a large number of phones discarded yearly.  It is very appropriate for the Chinese people to recycle or reuse discarded mobile phones to minimize problems regarding discarded mobile phones disposal.

Based on the evidences that I have collected, I came up with different inferences regarding the issue of phone recycling:

  1. Phone recycling in China and even in other parts of the world is a new form of “economic trend” which provides gratification for phone users and also for mobile phone companies.


  1. Phone recycling is one way of popularizing the image of mobile companies.


  1. It is also a form of justification for the lavishness and materialist characteristics of human beings.


In the first statement, I stated that phone recycling is a new form of “economic trend”. Phone Recycling is economic in the sense that it serves monetary advantage for the users, sellers and mobile companies.  For the users of mobile phones, when the unit is not working anymore there are different mobile stores who pays cash upon surrendering of the defective or obsolete mobile units (Caitlin, 2011). On the side of the seller, buying defective phones is another mean for generating income. For instance, in Hua Qiang Bei there are two large buildings that are primarily dedicated to cellular phones which are traded as commodities or as raw materials and some outdoor vendors have so few phones that it looks like they personally collected them from trashcans to sell them in the adjacent street market (Kousemaker, 2011). The economic benefit of the mobile companies will be the mobile phone material which can be reused that will help the manufacturer to avoid further purchasing of same material and to save a good amount of money (Caitlin, 2011).

Second is that recycling of phones is a mean for popularizing the image of mobile phone companies. For instance is the “Green Box” project of Nokia Corporation which started in 2005 in China (Admin, 2011). In the same year, China Mobile launched a long-term environmental protection program, encouraging customers to put their used mobile phones and electronic accessories into green boxes which were placed by the company in over 1,000 of its business halls located in 40 cities but the program stopped before the end of 2010 because the contract between the China Mobile and a equipment recycling company “has expired” (Beibei, 2011). Two years earlier, Samsung signed the Declaration on Environmentally-Friendly Disposal of Used Mobile Phones in which was prepared under the auspices of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) of China where Samsung is implementing campaigns to raise people’s awareness of the importance of environmental protection and encouraging the recycling of used mobile phones (Samsung, n.d.). All of these projects of different cell phone companies won positive reputation and widespread social attention from different organization and mobile consumers. Although, it is also evident that all of these projects were merely a form of publicity stunt because according to a survey conducted by the Nokia Corporation, there is less than 1% of discarded phones that were recycled in China (Admin, 2011). The result of the survey was ironic in the sense that the one who conducted the survey is also responsible for the phone recycling project.

Lastly, phone recycling is form of justification for the lavishness of human beings when it comes to mobile gadgets. It is very obvious that there are various models of mobile phones. Mobile manufacturers releases different cell phone models oftenly that the mobile users tend to buy the latest models while disregarding their old ones. Because of our unlimited wants and our lavishness, we opt to find an alternative way to dispose our old things to buy new ones. Phone recycling is a means to safely dispose of, and recycle old mobiles in an environmentally friendly way for cash (Mckoy, 2011). Because we don’t need our old phones, we can just sell them to a recycling shop that pays cash that we can use for other things, probably buying a new mobile phone or anything else.

Phone recycling is indeed a very much help in conserving and protecting our planet’s natural resources, however, behind this projects lays internal motives of different people or group of people who will do everything to maximize their benefit regarding the matter. In the end of the day, the subject matter is still debatable and open for contentions and suggestions from anyone who is really concern about the issue.










How China recycles millions of cellphones every year – Nokia Nseries. (2005, March 11). Nokia Blogs. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Caitlin, A. (2011, March 11). Recycle Mobiles – Show Some Courtesy Towards Your Home Planet, The Earth! . Breaking News, Current Events, Latest News and World Events at Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Kousemaker, D. (2011, May 8). Shenzhen – Phone recycling [via Techtravels, David Kousemaker] – ewaste workshop. ewaste workshop. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Admin (2011, Aprill 22) Mobile Phone Recycling in China – Less Than 1% of Discarded Cell . Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Beibei, J. (2011, February 18). Activists urge phone recycling – GlobalTimes. Globaltimes_china news_chinese_news. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

SAMSUNG. (n.d.). SAMSUNG. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Mckoy. (2010, January 25). How Mobile Phone Recycling Helps People and the Environment. Scribd. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from