Apple Intends to Use Only Recycled Materials for Products

One day, Apple’s products could be manufactured entirely from recycled materials. The US-based concern released this aim in its Environmental Responsibility Report 2017, covering 2016. According to the information, the company is working on a “closed-loop supply chain“ that would allow it to stop mining the earth for rare minerals and metals.

“To preserve precious resources, over 99 percent of the paper in our product packaging is from recycled or responsibly managed sources. And, in only two years, through partnerships with the Conservation Fund and World Wildlife Fund, we have achieved our goal of protecting or creating enough sustainably managed working forests to cover all of our product packaging needs”, Apple stresses. “That’s just a start. 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. That means continuing to invest in ways to recover materials from our products – like Liam, our line of disassembly robots – and encouraging our customers to return products through Apple Renew, our recycling program. And we’re launching projects and experiments that help us learn how to close loops. For example, we’ve melted down iPhone 6 aluminum enclosures recovered from Liam to make Mac mini computers for use in our factories, and we’re transitioning to 100 percent recycled tin solder on the main logic board of iPhone 6s.”

Recycling Projects

For dismantling, Apple uses “Liam”, a line of robots that can disassemble iPhone 6 and sort its components “with the goal of reducing the need to mine more resources from the earth”. With two Liam lines running, the company can take apart up to 2.4 million phones a year. “It’s an experiment in recycling technology that’s teaching us a lot, and we hope this kind of thinking will inspire others in our industry”, Apple states.

For aluminum, the manufacturer found that one of the best sources of recycled material was the own products and processes. “This is because we specify such a high grade of the material – it’s part of what makes our products so strong and durable. Today, the only way to keep aluminum at this level of quality is to keep a clean material stream – not to mix it with existing scrap aluminum, which is what typically happens at recycling facilities”, the company emphasized. “Our challenge is to recover the aluminum from our products without degrading its quality“. As reported, for tin, unlike aluminum, there is an existing market supply of recycled tin that meets the producer’s quality standards. “So we are tapping into that supply for iPhone 6s and now using 100 percent recycled tin for the solder on the main logic board, where the majority of tin in the device is found.”

Goal is to recover as much tin as Apple is using. Because this heavy metal is not recovered by all electronics recyclers, the company is working to identify tin recyclers and ensure that the material is being consistently recovered and recycled from its products. “To start, we are sending iPhone 6 main logic boards recovered by Liam to a recycler who can reclaim the tin in addition to the copper and precious metals”, the technology firm points out. “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.”


For every 100,000 iPhone 6 devices, Liam has the potential to recover the following materials:

■ Aluminum (1900 kg)
■ Copper (800 kg)
■ Gold (0.3 kg)
■ Platinum Group Metals (0.4 kg)
■ Silver (7 kg)
■ Tin (55 kg)
■ Rare Earth Elements (24 kg)
■ Cobalt (550 kg)
■ Tungsten (3.5 kg)
■ Tantalum (2.5 kg)


Photo: Apple

GR 22017