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2-min read

Old iPhones Don’t Die, They Get Recycled: Apple Focuses on Sustainability Ahead of Earth Day

Apple has released the 2019 Environment Report, expanded the Global Recycling Programs, and opened a new Material Recovery Lab.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:April 19, 2019, 10:06 AM IST
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Old iPhones Don’t Die, They Get Recycled: Apple Focuses on Sustainability Ahead of Earth Day
Daisy the robot can disassemble 15 iPhone models at the speed of 200 devices per hour.
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Old iPhones don’t die, but they get recycled. If there is one tech company that has relentlessly focused on the environment, it is Apple. The Cupertino based company has announced the 2019 Environment Report, the expansion for the global recycling programs as well as the opening of the 9,000 square-foot Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas.

In a major expansion for the recycling program, Apple is now quadrupling the number of locations in the US where customers can trade in their older iPhones for recycling. The disassembling will be done by Daisy, the robot that is an expert at taking apart iPhones traded in or dropped for recycling. Apart from the trade-in at Apple stores and also shipping the devices in after registering online, Apple says Daisy will disassemble and recycle select used iPhones returned to Best Buy stores throughout the US and KPN retailers in the Netherlands.

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. In 2018, Apple says they refurbished more than 7.8 million Apple devices and helped divert more than 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills.

Daisy the robot can disassemble 15 iPhone models at the speed of 200 devices per hour. During the disassembling process, Daisy can recover and separate materials that can be re-used in the manufacturing process. For instance, the cobalt recovered from iPhone batteries is used to manufacture new iPhone batteries—these batteries are sent by Apple to its supply chain partners after they are recovered by Daisy.

Apple confirms that they use 100 percent recycled tin in a key component of the main logic boards for 11 different Apple products. At the same time, the 100 percent recycled aluminium is used to make the new MacBook Air and the Mac Mini computing devices. As per the company’s estimates, this means the newer versions of these products have half the carbon footprint of the predecessors.

To further push the recycling and recovering initiatives, the company has announced the opening of the 9,000-square foot facility in Austin, Texas, and it is called the Material Recovery Lab. The lab will focus on developing new recycling methods and technologies, for improved disassembly, sorting and shredding of materials.

Apple also released the 2019 Environment Report, ahead of the Earth Day on 22 April. The report states that 100 percent of Apple’s facilities globally are powered by renewable electricity, and that the company’s operations clocked in at 25.2 million metric tons of CO2e in 2018, which is 35 percent lesser carbon footprint globally as compared with the year 2015. Apart from the recycled material used in making the enclosures of the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini, Apple is also focusing on responsibly sourced wood fiber for all the retail packaging.

It is not just the facilities, but the products which are also becoming more energy efficient. “The A11 and A12 chips used in iPhone 8, X, XS, XS Max, and XR allow more processing power to be packed into smaller silicon dies, which reduced Apple’s 2018 carbon footprint by 160,000 metric tons,” says the report. There are more examples as well. The 11-inch iPad Pro is 69 percent more power efficient than the Energy Star standard which most computing devices follow. The new MacBook Air consumes three times less energy when in Sleep mode than the previous generation MacBook Air.

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