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What Really Happens When You Trade In an iPhone at the Apple Store

Bloomberg [unpaywalled]: Apple touts its network of shredding robots and contractors as a greener way to reuse old gadgets. A lengthy court battle and a Businessweek investigation have cast some light on the recycling industry’s dirty secrets. Few workers at the recycling plant had access to the secure room that some called the “Apple cage.” Behind its locked door, past a metal detector and under surveillance cameras, a small team of employees of GEEP Canada Inc., an electronic-waste processor north of Toronto, sifted through pallet-size boxes full of used iPhones. Prying each one open manually at a set of tables, they ripped out batteries and other parts and tossed the components into sorting bins. When enough material piled up in one of the bins, it was forklifted to a larger area of the warehouse, where its contents were dumped into big industrial shredders that loudly pulverized the gadgetry into tiny shards. Even if the iPhones looked good enough for resale, Apple Inc.’s contract with GEEP (said with a hard “g”) explicitly required that every product it sent be destroyed. In Apple’s view, these devices, the kind usually disposed of at its stores or collected from trade-ins when customers upgraded to a new model, were better off scrapped for their precious metals than refurbished. And Apple was scrapping tons: In its first couple years working with GEEP, the company shipped it more than 530,000 iPhones, 25,000 iPads and 19,000 Watches…”

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