There’s a pair of near-perfectly juxtaposed stories about Apple in the news recently. First, Apple has released its own environmental progress report for 2017. The news here is generally good, as you’d expect from a self-prepared report, but it highlights Apple’s success in moving to fully renewable energy and to use less power across its entire product stack.
In the report, Apple claims that it wants to move to products that are fully recyclable. The report reads:
Traditional supply chains are linear. Materials are mined, manufactured as products, and often end up in landfills after use… We believe our goal should be a closed-loop supply chain, where products are built using only renewable resources or recycled material. We already have programs in place to ensure the finite materials we use in our products are sourced responsibly through strict standards and programs on the ground that drive positive change. We’re piloting innovative new recycling techniques, like our line of dis-assembly for robots, so we can put reclaimed materials to better use in new products. It’s an ambitious goal that will require many years of collaboration across multiple Apple teams, our suppliers, and specialty recyclers but our works already under way.
Given how many smartphones go into landfills every year, and how many hundreds of millions of phones Apple sells, this kind of efficiency would make a material impact on e-waste and could encourage other companies to create their own recycling programs.It might not be cheaper than using new materials right out of the gate, but over time as new methods to improve efficiency are discovered, Apple might one day be able to build devices out of mostly recycled material for less than it would cost to buy new components
Apple’s desire to tout its own environmental credentials isn’t surprising to us, but a new article from Vice puts a different spin on the company’s activities. According to their year-long investigation, Apple iPhones and MacBooks aren’t “recycled” in any meaningful sense. Instead, they’re completely destroyed, by Apple’s specific order. They forbid any reuse or resale of any components. Everything is shredded down to commodity.