Chinese media highlighted the growing issue of electronic waste and relatively low levels of smartphone recycling in the country, as the number of discarded mobile phones in the country was tipped to exceed 6 billion by 2025.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) cited the statistic from a report broadcast by state-run TV station CCTV discussing the high number of devices no longer in use.

SCMP added fewer than 2 per cent of old smartphones are properly recycled in the country, with the remainder apparently disposed of elsewhere or idle in people’s houses. The media outlets did not offer an estimate on current levels of abandoned handsets in the country.

The huge projection follows a surge in sales of 5G-compatible handsets and a constant stream of new devices being launched by locally-based manufacturers.

Electronic waste
Measures to address the mountains of disused smartphones and other forms of electronic waste have been undertaken across several parts of the world, as regulators and companies seek to cut the environmental impact of the technology sector.

In terms of handsets, these include schemes to recycle components in the devices; elongate the life of handsets through repair and updates; eliminate the need for multiple chargers and peripherals; and encourage resales.

The most-recent edition of the UN’s electronic waste monitor (published in 2020), placed China as the world’s largest producer with 10.1 million tonnes generated in 2019 across a whole range of electrical appliances and devices not just smartphones.