What Apple and its official recycler say, or not say

1. Apple’s view: 

According to Apple, the recycling of iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 only takes up 1% of greenhouse gas emissions during an iPhone’s lifetime. To give customers incentives, a 10% discount is given if an iPhone is brought to the store for recycling. Customers can also have their iPhone recycled by a contractor without getting paid nor having to pay.

Apple said that an iPhone is made of mostly recyclable material such as glass, stainless steel and plastic, with 3.5g and 5g of unspecified material in iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 respectively. In the iPhone product Environmental Report, it is stated that an iPhone does not contain harmful substances such as nickel plating on the surface, arsenic in display glass, and it also does not have lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) PBB, PBDE and PVC. However, this only means that the iPhone “contains less than 900 parts per million (ppm) of bromine and chlorine.” This means an iPhone might still contain slight traces of these harmful substances.

In the recycling process, Apple said on its website that “nothing is shipped overseas for recycling or disposal,” and “disposal of hazardous electronic waste in solid-waste landfills or incinerators” is not allowed. Also, according to clauses 1.8, 2.4.3 and 3.1 of the Apple’s recycler requirements agreement, the Exhibit B Recycler Requirements, the recyclers should try their best to reuse the materials as intact as possible, including extracting precious metals for reuse through shredding, separating and smelting circuit board materials. To ensure that the recyclers are follow the rules, Apple conducts an “Environmental Healthy and Safety audit” at least once a year. However, according to the “Exhibit B Recycler Requirements” clause 1.5, materials could be shipped out of states only if there is “prior written authorization from Apple’s Corporate Recycling Manager and Apple’s Senior Corporate Manager of Environment Health and Safety.” This means that it is still possible, however small that possibility is, for harmful materials to be shipped overseas.

Apart from visiting the website, we also called Apple’s main office in Hong Kong to try to obtain more information about recycling, but the answer we receive is that this main office is not responsible for recycling and is responsible for ordering products only.

2. Li Tong Group’s view: 
Li Tong Recycle is the company designated as the official recycler for most of Asia-Pacific on Apple’s website. It is based in Hong Kong and is responsible for recycling of Apple products in places such as Hong Kong, China, India, and Korea.

What Li Tong Recycle says on their website:
The Li Tong Recycle website states that the Group complies with all applicable “Environmental regulations for electronic waste and adhere to sound Electronic Recycling Management protocols,” and specially the “Electronics Industry Code of Conduct” of the European Commission. They also stated that they use the most advanced technologies to recover and recycle as much material as possible, and would maximize the possibility of reusing received equipment.

What Li Tong Recycle said when we called them:
Since there is not much information about iPhone recycling on Li Tong’s website, we tried to call them. We made various calls, all of which pointed us to the website and we are told that the lines we reached were not responsible for the iPhone.

What Li Tong Recycle said when we visited them:
We made a visit to the Li Tong’s Group office, or factory as we do not know what it is, in Foh Tan. At the first door, we were received by two staff who said they were not responsible for iphone, told us to call a number, to visit the website, and that it was not convenient for them to say anything. We called the given number and we were told that we will be referred to the department responsible for recycling iPhone, but we have received no call-backs. So we went to the other door, which was at the same floor. A staff went to open the door and from what we can peeped inside, it was quite empty. The staff said that he did not know anything about it, there was no number we could call to us, it was inconvenient for him to say anything, given that he holds a low position.

Here is a video of our interview with the staff from the second door:


For further information, please refer to:


—posted by Phoebe Tang


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