Research has shown that it takes nearly 165 pounds of raw material to make the average smartphone – and these resources are on the verge of disappearing.
In order to combat these numbers and save the planet, Apple has vowed to end the destructive mining and use 100 percent recycled materials in its iPhones, MacBooks and all of its other products.
The announcement comes with the tech giant’s latest progress report, which has also highlighted some of its environmental successes such as a 23 percent decrease in carbon emissions from 2015 to 2016.
Scroll down for videos
Apple has vowed to end the destructive mining and use 100 percent recycled materials in its iPhones, MacBooks and all of its other products. The announcement comes with the tech giant’s latest progress report, which has also highlighted some of its environmental successes
Apple has released its 2017 progress report, which outlines the firm’s goals and successes in becoming a greener electronics maker.
The firm vowed to end the destructive mining and use 100 percent recycled materials in its iPhones, MacBooks and all of its other electronics.
It also plans to gather parts from devices returned by customers and combine them with ‘high quality recycled metals’.
The firm noted that 96 percent of the electricity used for its global facilities was from renewable energy, which has reduced carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons.
Apple also reduced its carbon footprint from 38.4 million metric tons in 2015 to 29.5 million in 2016.
A majority of mobile devices are manufactured with a slew of raw materials including tantalum, zinc, copper, tungsten and cobalt.
And although these minerals are conflict-free, electronics makers rely on cheap labor to mine these sometimes hard to reach materials – and many of the workers are children.
This has been found to be a major issue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Coblat, which is used in the rechargeable batteries, is mined.
In the past, Apple with Samsung and Sony have all been accused of failing to ensure the materials used in their products do not come from mines that exploit child labor.
Amensty International released a report last year that revealed children as young as 7 years old were working in the mines.
However, Apple’s latest report may have suggested that the tech giant is turning over a new leaf and is looking to be more environmentally friendly – even if they have yet to determine how.
‘We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it,’ Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives and a former head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, told VICE News.
‘So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.’
Jackson also noted that Apple has plans to gather parts from devices returned by customers and combine them with ‘high quality recycled metals’.
WHAT’S INSIDE YOUR SMARTPHONE?
The hazardous ingredients of mobile phones have long been kept under wraps by manufacturers who are tight lipped about the recipes they use for their high-tech components.
The electronics industry relies on an array of metals that make it possible to bring miniaturization, speed and increased capabilities to our mobile phones like Copper, Zinc, Iron, Nickel, Aluminum, Lead, Tin, Silver, Chromium, Gold, Palladium.
Cobalt is another material, which is used in rechargeable batteries found in many laptops, mobile phones and electric vehicles.
HeathyStuff.org sampled 36 different mobile phones to see what lurks behind the sleek smartphone covers.
The phones were completely disassembled and interior and exterior components were sampled by X-ray Fluorescence spectrometry – a process which determines the chemical composition of a material.
Each phone reportedly had either lead, bromine, mercury, cadmium, chlorine, or some combination of those chemicals.
These hazardous substances can pollute throughout a product’s life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted; when they are processed; during phone manufacturing; and at the end of the phone’s useful life.
The average smartphone contains up to 62 different types of metals and many are rare-earth metals.
The progress report also shared Apple’s strides in other goals.
The firm noted that 96 percent of the electricity used for its global facilities was from renewable energy, which has reduced carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons – a decrease of 23 percent.
Apple has plans to gather parts from devices returned by customers and combine them with ‘high quality recycled metals’. Firm also revealed it reduced its carbon footprint from 38.4 million metric tons in 2015 to 29.5 million in 2016
APPLE’S ROBOT CAN RECOVER METALS FROM PHONES
After manual inspection, devices with salvageable components are shipped to Liam.
Liam is a large-scale robot, made up of 29 freestanding robotic arms.
Each has a different attachment – some have drills, others screwdrivers and suction cups.
After a warehouse worker puts several iPhones onto a conveyor belt (it can fit about 40 at a time on the entrance section), the process begins.
The first robot removes each iPhone’s screen from the back casing, according to Mashable.
The pieces are transported via conveyor belt to another section where the battery is carefully removed.
Screws are sucked up into small tubes and are housed in a nearby container, while SIM card slots are dropped into a small bucket below the system.
Apple claims that Liam yields a 97 percent success rate for removing each component.
It is programmed to carefully disassemble the many pieces of returned iPhones, including SIM card trays, screws, batteries and cameras, by removing components bit by bit so they’ll all be easier to recycle.
‘We’re 100 percent renewable in 24 countries—and all of Apple’s data centers,’ Apple shared in the report.
‘Our new corporate campus, Apple Park, is on track to be the largest LEED Platinum–certified building in North America.’
‘Over 80 percent of the new campus is open space with more than 9000 drought-tolerant trees.’
‘And, of course, it’s powered by 100 percent renewable energy.’
The tech giant also shared that it had reduced its carbon footprint from 38.4 million metric tons in 2015 to 29.5 million in 2016.
TECH GIANTS USE CHILDREN TO MINE SMARTPHONE METALS
Technology giants Apple, Samsung and Sony have been accused of failing to ensure the materials used in their products do not come from mines that exploit child labor.
Amnesty International and African Resources Watch (Afrewatch) have all accused the companies of lax oversight of their supplies of cobalt from mines in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Cobalt is used in rechargeable batteries found in many laptops, mobile phones and electric vehicles.
A report produced earlier this year by the campaign groups says consumer products sold around the world could contain traces of the metal from informal Congolese mines, without technology companies knowing.
In response, Apple said it had a zero tolerance policy towards child labor and was evaluating ways to improve its identification of labor and environmental risks.
Samsung SDI said it conducted written evaluations and on-site inspections of all suppliers to certify compliance with human rights, labor, ethics, environment and health standards.
The report identified children as young as 12-years-old were working underground digging up the metal in the mine.
Once processed, the cobalt is sold to battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea, which supply the multinationals.
Huayou Cobalt is the largest cobalt chemicals producer in China and sold almost $235 million of the metal in 2013, according to the report.
Once smelted, the cobalt is exported to China before being sold to battery manufacturers who claim to supply top-end electronics companies including Apple, Samsung, Sony and 13 others, the report said.
Congo’s supply of the metals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold has been under scrutiny since 2010, when laws in the United States required US-listed companies to ensure their supply chain was free from these so-called ‘conflict minerals’.
But cobalt has received scant regulatory attention, although strifetorn Congo is the source of more than half of global supply.
‘A variety of factors contributed to the 23 percent decline, including benefits of our environmental programs (such as reduced emissions from aluminum manufacturing and installing clean energy in our supply chain), a year-over-year decline in the total number of products sold, and changes to our carbon footprint calculations,’ Apple explained.
Apple is also encouraging its customers to recycle their smartphones, tablets and other devices, as they plan to include used parts with the recycled material in the future.