Chinese company keeps used phones out of the landfill with successful trade-in app

Dive Brief:

  • Kerry Chen, founder and CEO of Shanghai Yueyi Network Co., sees major potential in helping Chinese consumers make money off their used phones so they can buy the latest model. His company processed 5 million devices in 2016 and expects to double its business this year, as reported by Bloomberg Technology.
  • The company's Aihuishou app, which translates to "love recycling," can identify what type of processor, camera and storage a phone has and assess its value. Users are asked to perform basic tests such as drawing lines or covering sensors to help the app figure out if all parts are still functional. The app will deliver a quote on the spot and if the user decides to sell they can mail their device or have it picked up.
  • Through various agreements with trade-in companies and e-commerce platforms Chen's company can then sell these used phones to consumers who don't care about having the latest model. Students and residents in rural areas are seen as prime markets.

Dive Insight:

Deloitte estimates that the global used phone market may be worth as much as $17 billion and analysis shows that more than 40% of the phones currently being used in China may be replaced in 2017. Millions of phones are thrown out in the country every year and only around 10% are believed to be processed through licensed recycling facilities. Chen and his competitors stand to profit greatly from this turnover, but they also have the potential to reduce environmental harm in the process.

A survey conducted by Greenpeace East Asia last year found that nearly half of respondents wanted manufacturers to take more responsibility for making their products recyclable and this is an ongoing issue for most phones. If these devices aren't properly recycled the rare earth metals used to make them can be potentially hazardous to workers and the environment. By collecting them in larger quantities through more regulated trade-in programs it will be possible to extend the useful life of these devices and keep them out of landfills longer.

While U.S. residents may have more options for phone trade-in or drop-off programs, many people still don't take advantage of them. Reports on the state and national level estimate that phones make up a large percentage of the billions of devices sitting dormant in people's homes. As manufacturers continue to develop new products at a rapid pace, making consumers feel that their current models are obsolete, ideas such as Chen's Aihuishou app could potentially have a place in the U.S. market as well.

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Filed Under: Recycling Waste Diversion
Top image credit: Pixabay