The great lengths Apple goes to for eco-friendly packaging

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EarPods
Apple's EarPods packaging is some of its most environmentally friendly.
Photo: Apple

Apple has taken big steps toward making its products more sustainable. As part of that mission, it just released a new “Paper and Packaging Strategy” white paper, which lays out the various measures the company is taking to lower the environmental impact its packaging has on the world.

There are three main steps that Apple describes. The first is using renewable energy sources to drive its products and facilities. Secondly, it strives to use recycled and renewable materials in its products, as well as recycling as many materials used in devices as possible at the end of their life. Finally, it involves finding better processes for manufacturing its packaging.

Speaking to this last point, Apple outlines how its iPhone 7 case improved the design of the previous iPhone 6s packaging by combining two separate trays into one. Apple also changed the material from petroleum-based plastic to a fiber-based material. The results were an 84 percent decrease in plastic usage for iPhone 7 packaging next to the iPhone 6s.

Apple employed similar changes to improve its EarPods carrier, while the iPhone 8 managed to find a more sustainable approach to the plastic wrap used to protect the handset’s wall charger. Since Apple produces tens of millions of iPhones, this represents a sizeable material reduction.

You can check out the paper in full here, where it makes interesting reading for anyone who is interested or concerned about Apple’s environmental credentials.

Sustainability under Tim Cook

Under Tim Cook’s leadership, Apple has made no secret of its environmental concerns. In 2013, the company announced that its data centers were all running on renewable energy. This ambition was rapidly expanded to cover hundreds of Apple stores.

Since then, Apple has taken these aspirations all over the world. The company inked a bio-gas research agreement with Denmark’s University of Aarhus, while a five-year project in China manages 1 million acres of forests.

Apple has also been named the most environmentally friendly tech giant by Greenpeace on multiple occasions — representing an impressive turnaround for a company once labelled Greenpeace’s pick for “least green” tech company. Earlier this year, Tim Cook accepted the Free Expression Award at the First Amendment advocacy Newseum — in part for the public stance he has taken on issues such as climate change.