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Inside Scoop: Where iPhones go to die

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Inside Scoop: Where iPhones go to die

4:43 /

CNET's Sumi Das talks to senior writer Jay Greene about where your iPhone goes after you've traded it in.

-Hello. I'm Sumi Das with Inside Scoop. Joining me is Jay Greene, Senior writer for Cnet. Jay, thanks for being with us. -Thanks for having me. -Jay recently returned from two weeks in China where he was researching a series of reports on the life cycle of an iPhone and we wanna focus now on what happens at the end of that life cycle. What happens when we're done with it? So, I think 10 years ago it was more common for people to hang out to phones for a little bit longer but now it seems like whenever a new phone is announced and released and available, you ditch your old one. Where were those phones end up? -Well-- so it's ancient question. It used to be that many of them wind up in the third world. Many of them wind up in some of these, you know, horrific e-waste dumpsites. There are actually rules right now in Apple to its credit for example will recycle all of the phones that it receives in the regions which they're received. So, if you've recycled your iPhone 3G when you bought a new 4S in the U.S. it would have been taking care of in the United States so we're doing the recycle here. Now, that's it. There's a difference between reusing an iPhone or any phone for that matter and recycling it. -So we're using is preferred apparently the more environmental option? -Well that would be the logical conclusion but if you speak with an environmentalist, they're less-- they don't necessarily agree with it. They are concern when an iPhone gets refurbished, typically what happens is it get send to a developing nation. Folks in the U.S. generally don't wanna buy the 3 year old model, they want the new one and so the cheaper iPhones, and again this is truly like all sorts of devices not just iPhones but the cheaper phones wind up going to developing nations and the fact is in those countries, they aren't handled, they aren't equipped to handle the recycle in an appropriate way and so often these phone when they wind up there, they create the sort of toxic hazard. So what did you see when you're in China? -So what I wanted to phone was sort of understand what happens to phones there. China is obviously a huge country. -Uh-hmm. -iPhones are enormously popular there. So when someone gets rid of their phone, often it'll go to an electronics market. And many of these around the country and they'll sell some of their iPhone and then they'll buy another one. When those phones are sold, they tend to get consolidated and the parts that can be used great those get to be used. -So they get taken apart. -They get taken apart, they get-- essentially they go to these chopped shops where they get pulled apart, the pieces that can be used, great. The pieces that can't be used, those eventually make their way down stream. -You had an interesting description of a chop shop that you actually went inside. Tell us about that. -Yes, so it was interesting. So I went to a town called Guangzhou, which is in the Southern part in China and I visited a chop shop, literally walked in they actually found this place, need some contacts located this and it was an odd place, I mean you-- it was a really concrete garage maybe 40 feet by 25 feet. I was there at the beginning of monsoon season, it was baking hot and you walked in there and there were about a dozen of people most women a lot of them sitting on the ground or on makeshift stools from old CRT terminals and when I was there, they were breaking apart computers. They weren't breaking apart phones at that time. But really what they were doing is they're trying to separate the plastic from the metals and the wires and that those pieces will then be recycled to the best of the ability that they had, but again there are very few places in China that can handle recycling appropriately. And so often as this stuff gets move down stream it leeches in to the ground water, it gets taken apart in ways that aren't environmentally friendly. -And in this chop-shop, were there safety precautions that were being taken where workers wearing masks? -Well, you say, I mean, there are workers wearing sort of hospital mask. -Uh-hmm. -I'm not sure if that had anything to do with what they were doing or you often you see people like, you know, walking-- they're trying to [unk]. -Sure. -It wasn't a working environment that you or I might find familiar. Like I say they were literally sitting on this concrete slabs that was baking hot. They had a big fan that didn't really seem to be doing all a lot of anything except blowing hot air around. It was an odd and so much frightening place. -Thank you so much Jay. And look forward to the peace. For Inside Scoop, I'm Sumi Das, thanks for watching.

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