iPhone isn’t friendly for recycling?


Apple's iPhone has now accounted for an overwhelming share of 50% of Japan's mobile phone market.
It has the highest popularity in Japan, but they have become a bit of problem for recycling.

A scrap dealer in northern Kanto region, who sorts and demolishes various e-scraps including mobile phones, says that the company selects iPhones and keeps them separately from other kinds of mobile phones. Because, "The battery is built in the body of iPhone and we keep Sony's big Xperia seperately, too." What is common to both phones is that the battery is integrated with the body.

iPhone and the big Xperia are so design-centric, In order to make the back flat, the battery is placed not to be removed so easily as other smart phones or mobile phones.
The battery can be removed if we want, but it takes substantial time to remove a battery one by one disconnecting wires with a driver. Even if it takes a lot of troubles, making business sense would be good, but it isn’t worth it.


What's wrong with the battery-integrated structure is a risk of ignition, for example when it is shredded in a recycling facility as the lithium-ion battery is used in the battery-integrated smart phones. So, the said dealer told that they ship such smart phones to Tsuruga Recycling Facility of JX Group which can roast them with circuit boards.

Currently, however, the battery-integrated model has not become a big issue in recycling.
Because, these types of sophisticated smart phones are traded actively in secondhand markets (reused) before recycling. After they are distributed and become antiquated in Japan, they can be sold in Asian markets, So, it is said that quite few previous models are in circulation in recycling markets.
But, the problem will surface when they are finally recycled.

The battery-integrated model also has a disadvantage in terms of resources recycling.
In the flow of recycling lithium-ion batteries, the resources such as cobalt could be collected from the model whose battery pack can be easily removed. But, it’s quite difficult to extract cobalt in roasting process. Currently, little cobalt seems to be collected in such a process.

As the design-centric battery-integrated smart phones become more widespread, they would be a trouble for final recycling markets.
In this age of enhancing corporate value with its efforts for zero emission or carbon footprint, the battery-integrated model might be designed against the tide.

(Edited by Sasaki)

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