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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.

Source:CE.cn 
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