What to Do About the World’s Mounting Pile of Used iPhones?

Zhuanzhuan, a professional pre-owned products trading platform launched by renowned Chinese Internet company Inc., recently wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, saying that the company is able and willing to work with Apple to recycle and sell secondhand iPhones.

Secondhand iPhones are one of the nettlesome issues on Tim Cook’s mind. In May, 2016, Tim Cook talked about Apple’s future plans for India when he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but his plan for the sale of pre-owned iPhones in the Indian market was again rejected by the Indian government.

Zhuanzhuan published a letter in the Wall Street Journal on July 1, 2016, stating that while India refused to provide assistance, Zhuanzhuan is willing and in the position to do so, and expressed the hope that it can join hands with Apple for this great cause. The core content of this letter has also been posted on one of the large billboards overlooking New York’s Time Square.

Pre-owned cellphones contribute in a large way to global pollution and waste. According to the available statistics announced earlier by the United Nations, the world’s electronic refuse is expected to grow to 65 million tons by 2017, with mobile devices, especially smartphones, projected to account for a large proportion. The letter, citing data from the UN, said that in 2015 alone, in China, 400 million mobile phones were thrown away by their owners, 40 million of which were iPhones.

In fact, smartphones usually have a designated lifetime of several years. However, given the frequent launch of new models by vendors, a large number of smartphones are quickly discarded despite still being in good condition, and replaced with new ones after being used for, in most cases, less than a year. It would certainly be an efficient way to relieve the high level of pressure arising from this wasting of resources if these pre-owned smartphones could be properly recycled and processed so that they could be given a second life with a new owner.

Yet, this is a big challenge. Tim Cook earlier explained that Apple has a number of new innovative environment programs in place, including two round-the-clock programs which operate worldwide: Apple Renew and Liam. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of these programs is quite limited considering the dramatic growth in Apple’s annual production capacity of smartphones. Only 10 per cent of Chinese smartphone users said that they would send their discarded phones back to the corresponding vendor, according to the letter.

Zhuanzhuan is a Chinese professional pre-owned goods trading platform aiming to create and continuously enhance the environment for the trading of pre-owned goods in China, with an emphasis on pre-owned iPhones. To this end, Zhuanzhuan has built an outstanding quality control team which can match that of Apple, and launched China’s first 30-day warranty service for the pre-owned cellphone market.

Zhuanzhuan claimed in the letter that it can quickly reach over 300 million Chinese consumers by virtue of the support and resources of its parent Inc., a Chinese classified advertising site often referred to as the “Craigslist of China” and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013.