The hazards and complexities of recycling motherboards and circuits mean much of China’s 3.62 million tons of electronic waste ends up in landfills. The UNDP-Baidu Recycle app helps users at the household level price and recycle their electronic products by connecting them to certified waste recycling and dismantling agencies across all major cities in China. The app seeks to effectively integrate the informal sector into the legitimate e-waste processing industry. When a user takes a photo of their electronic waste, the app gives them the name, category and estimated scrap price for the item. Users in certain cities can arrange a pick-up of their obsolete home appliances by a certified recycling partner of the project.
Imagine an app that recycles your old phones, fights #globalwarming and pays you to boot! Well, we built it in China.
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Baidu Recycle is a mobile app developed by the United Nations Development Programme in China, pooling resources to address what we feel is one of China’s growing pains.
Baidu Recycle employs a model similar to that of the taxi app Uber by connecting those in need of a service with those who provide it. In this case, individuals wanting to dispose of old electronic goods are connected to service vendors with specialist facilities to safely recycle these goods and the dangerous chemicals they contain. It’s so simple, it’s almost low-tech. Users take a photo on the app, and recycling services respond with a bid for their approximate scrap value. The user can then request an e-waste pickup service for safe recycling.
The areas served by the app will be expanded through contracts with more e-waste recycling service providers. The proposed actions would support development of the collection and recycling infrastructure across the rest of China, covering a population of some 1.4 billion people, who purchased 58.1 million refrigerators, 53.0 million washing machines, 94.8 million air conditioners, 73.9 million computers and 250 million mobile phones in 2011 (United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace 2013).
There is also the potential for this initiative to be replicated in other countries. UNDP has a very strong track record in rapid prototyping and testing, piloting, scaling and then facilitating knowledge and technology transfer into other applicable contexts, through our network of over 170 Country Offices coordinated by 5 Regional Bureaus and HQ in New York. There is strong potential for Baidu Recycle to be adapted in this manner, should it gain sufficient exposure and traction across China – as is confidently expected.