In the West, recycling consumer electronics is often a modern process, where toxic chemicals used to make the devices are disposed of property. In the developing world, including parts of China, recycling is far more primitive and dangerous.
Apple popularity translates in China
Apple's Asian revenue has soared in recent years, particularly since the iPhone's launch in China in 2009. This Apple store in Shanghai, along the well-traveled Nanjing Road, is frequently packed.
This "iPhone" is a fake, something the vendor cheerfully acknowledges. It's obvious because the writing on the back reads, "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in U.S.A." Of course, no iPhones are assembled in the United States. The price: 650 renminbi or about $102.
This phone is an obvious Apple fake. It doesn't even try to resemble the iPhone, except for the spelling of the product's name. The letters may be different, but to non-English readers, they look awfully familiar. The vendor said this phone offers parents a way to appease children who want an iPhone without spending the money required. Its price: 400 renminbi or about $63.
When consumers buy a new mobile phone, they often unload their old one. In China, they can sell them to buyers like the man here, sitting behind the stand in front of the SEG Electronics Market in Shenzhen. He offered 2,300 renminbi, about $362, for an iPhone 4S.
Buyers of used mobile devices in China fix what they can to resell. The broken gadgets they can't fix are often taken to recycling operations, such as this one in Guangzhou, in south China. Many of those recyclers don't have modern equipment to properly handle the electronic waste.
Workers at this chop shop, an electronics recycling operation in Guangzhou, China, are tearing apart computers and computer monitors. Some said they also take apart broken mobile devices. They separate the plastic, the metals, and the wires. One environmental activist said the separated pieces are taken to other operations where they are melted so they can be resold, a "primitive" process that he said can release dangerous toxins.
At this recycling operation in Guangzhou, China, a worker, using a screwdriver, separates clear plastic pieces from black ones on a computer disk drive cover. The black plastic will likely be melted, though probably not in modern facilities, and resold.
Workers at an electronics recycling operation in Guangzhou, China, separate plastic, metals, and wires as they pull apart computers. Their workplace includes makeshift stools made from old computer monitors.