Apple is scrapping traded-in iPhones in North America, rather than reselling them, Bloomberg reports, a move that smartphone reconditioners could use to their advantage by highlighting it in their marketing to attract environmentally conscious sellers. 

The details emerged in a lawsuit filed by Apple against electronics-waste processor GEEP Canada Inc. in 2020. This related to a scheme allegedly involving workers reselling at least 99,975 iPhones and other Apple gadgets that GEEP had been contracted to recycle. 

Although GEEP acknowledged that Apple goods had been misappropriated, it blamed this on a number of “rogue employees.” 

Bloomberg noted that the theft raised a key question: If these devices were in good enough condition to be reused, why did Apple want them scrapped? 

A cynic might speculate that Apple wanted to restrict the supply of used Apple products to boost demand for new ones. As Bloomberg put it: “The more saturated markets become with cheaper used gadgets, the more they risk interfering with all-important sales of expensive new products.” 

It cited e-waste insiders as saying that a lot of used Apple devices undergo traditional recycling methods i.e. rough manual dismantling by hand before they’re tossed into industrial shredders that crunch them up into tiny shards. 

Apple says it only destroys devices in this manner when they no longer have market value, but the entrepreneurial — if not strictly legal — efforts of GEEP’s employees suggest this is not always the case.  

This news should be of interest to smartphone reconditioners, which are in competition with Apple to scoop up used Apple devices that their owners no longer want. They can highlight Apple’s lack of transparency and apparent greenwashing to make themselves a more attractive proposition to environmentally conscious consumers seeking to sell their devices.

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