Why Apple’s Talk About Recycling And Sustainability…Could Just Be Talk

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Apple has always been vocal about the green aspect and sustainability of their business, especially recycling.

You've heard about Liam, the wonder bot that takes apart old devices to make new ones. Or Daisy, Liam's successor and disassembler of old iPhones. Both machines are used to reclaim valuable material for reuse.

In 2017, the tech giant made a bold statement by saying that they're working on a future where new model Macbooks and iPhones will be made from 100% recycled materials, which is great and all. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, as the company constantly makes a wrong turn. Moreover, they step and trip themselves up when attempting to prolong their product's lifespan.

Motherboard has obtained documents on Apple's recycling efforts via Freedom of Information laws, and it doesn't look promising. The research reveals that Apple hasn't been following the rules of recycling, but rather doing the complete opposite. A recycler's job is to take apart phones, computers and other electronic devices, take out the working parts and salvage them to make something new. The bulk of salvaged material should go towards the creation of newer iPhones, iPads and Macbooks.

But in reality, the tech giant has been making it so that recyclers can't take apart old iPhones; instead, they force shredding of laptops and smart phones that produce the devices to their most basic components of glass, metal and circuits.

In a 2013, a document titled written by Apple recycling program manager John Yeide, wrote “Apple products and materials are first disassembled, then shredded into basic commodities such as glass, plastic and metal.” In addition, John wrote that hard drives were turned into production-grade materials and that they were sold as production stock for newer devices. There's virtually zero harvesting, salvaging or recycling, and no resale.

It seems, that Apple has been providing the public lip service. Apple in reality has been forcing environmental platforms to work solely on their own terms.

The researcher spent quite some time collecting state recycling reports from US States Oklahoma, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, North Carolina and Missouri via the Freedom of Information clause. They found the following things:

1. Majority of Apple's recycling comes from 3rd party sources.

2. Recycling is only a miniscule part of the tech giant's sustainable practice.

3. Apple has set an iron-clad rule to recyclers that they should only shred and not salvage items for e-waste.

The three 3rd party recyclers contracted by Apple are in charge of turning the company's old devices into new ones. But the problem with third party recyclers is the fact that the company (in this case, Apple) will have complete control and directive of what the recyclers should do with the e-waste. In this example, Apple has decided to shred everything and leave nothing to be recycled or re-used, which isn't exactly what they promised to the public.

The bottom line? Apple is still protective about their products and don't want other people having it. It looks like the main goal is to still get people to buy their latest products. After all, tech-based and consumer brands rely on sales to keep their business afloat.

Let's talk about the Apple Giveback Program. The platform works by having consumers return their old, broken or defective Apple devices to a store in exchange for Apple Store instant credit or gift cards. A trade-in can be done to get a newer model at a discounted price. The value for the trade-in depends on the product's condition, year and other variables. In respect to recycling, the program doesn't touch aspects of e-waste and other precious materials that can be salvaged or preserved.

Keep in mind that Apple still uses a lot of rare-earth and precious metals for their newest iPhones, MacBook’s and iPads each year to keep up with consumer interest. For those who really care about sustainability, one way you can save the earth is to think and consider if it's really time to buy a new phone. If you think you can survive another year with your laptop, then do so. You can also decide to buy refurbished, sell your old tech with a third party like Plunc and save money in the process. It extends the devices' lifespan and puts less e-waste in landfills.

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