Throughout 2016 Apple sold 78 million iPhones. An impressive figure we’re sure you’ll agree, but what was the actual cost of producing that many smartphones?
We’re not talking about monetary cost here but rather the impact manufacturing millions of smartphones every year has on the environment.
The Cupertino giant has detailed the impact its business has on our planet in its tenth annual Environmental Responsibility Report.
While the report dives into a number of interesting facts and figures about Apple offices, production facilities and data centres, it’s Apple’s plans to close it’s supply chain that jumped out at us.
“We’re going deeper to pioneer a closed-loop supply chain, where products are made using only renewable resources or recycled material to reduce the need to mine materials from the earth,” Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson says.
To determine where to start the firm created a Material Risk Profile for the 44 elements used in its products to measure the environmental, social and supply impact of each material.
The first round of analysis revealed that aluminium, tin and cobalt were among the materials that impacted all three factors greatly and Apple is doing it’s best to recycle these materials.
In the case of aluminium Apple says it created Liam, a line of robots that can take apart 2.4 million iPhones a year wresting the aluminium back for reuse in new products.
The firm goes on to say that it now only uses suppliers who provide it with recycled tin for use in soldering on the main logic board. In addition logic boards separated from phones by Liam are sent to a recycler which is able to extract tin, copper and other precious metals.
“We are now looking for ways to do this on a larger scale for tin—and apply what we’ve learned to other materials. For example, we’re experimenting with ways to recover cobalt from our lithium-ion batteries and use recycled cobalt,” says Apple.
The crux of this all is that if Apple manages to get this right we might one day find ourselves hearing Tim Cook say that the new iPhone is made completely from recycled materials and that’s hardly something to scoff at.
We find it rather comforting to know that Apple – a company as big as it is – isn’t afraid to stand up and admit that its business has the potential to have a massive environmental impact but is taking steps to rectify the harm it does.
And to those that put their nose up at the idea of a recycled smartphone may we remind you that Scotty Allen made his on iPhone 6 out of reused parts and it was glorious.
[Image – Public Domain Alan Levine]