Apple massively expands its global recycling programs

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Apple iPhone recycling
Apple has already recycled nearly 1 million devices.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s efforts to be the greenest company in tech continue with a major expansion to its global recycling programs.

It will be easier than ever for customers to send old iPhone units off for recycling. Apple is also opening a new Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas. The lab will use robots and machine learning to improve the company’s recycling processes.

Apple wants to ensure that old iPhones never end up in a landfill. Even if yours is battered, broken and worth nothing on the second-hand market, Apple will take it back and turn it into something new.

Apple has already recycled nearly 1 million devices. And in 2018 alone, it refurbished more than 7.8 million devices and diverted more than 48,000 metric tons of waste from landfills.

And Cupertino just made it even easier to send off your devices for recycling.

Take your iPhone to Best Buy for recycling

Apple teamed up with Best Buy to quadruple the number of U.S. locations where customers can submit their iPhones for recycling. It struck a similar partnership with KPN retailers in the Netherlands.

That means some people no longer must go out of their way to take old devices to an Apple Store.

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, in a press release.

“We work hard to design products that our customers can rely on for a long time. When it comes time to recycle them, we hope that the convenience and benefit of our programmes will encourage everyone to bring in their old devices.”

Daisy is even better now

Daisy the disassembly robot is a massive part of the iPhone recycling process, and now it’s even better. Apple says each robot can now disassemble 15 different iPhone models at the rate of 200 per hour.

After Apple recovers those materials, they go back into the supply chain for use in Cupertino’s future products.

Apple now uses 100 percent recycled tin in its logic boards for 11 different products. It has also engineered an aluminum alloy made from 100 percent recycled aluminum for its new MacBook Air.

But Apple wants to get even better at recycling.

Apple’s new Material Recovery Lab

Apple is opening a Material Recovery Lab dedicated to “discovering future recycling processes” in Austin, Texas.

The 9,000-square-foot facility will look for innovative solutions involving robots and machine learning to improve upon traditional recycling methods, such as disassembly, sorting and shredding.

The lab will work with Apple’s engineering teams as well as academia to “address and propose solutions to today’s industry recycling challenges,” Apple says.

“I absolutely think that the learnings we make there will be for all of Apple, and hopefully for all of our sector, and of course will influence designers and engineers as we go forward,” Jackson told Reuters.

Apple and recycling

Jackson also responded to critics who say Apple’s super-slim products aren’t easy enough to recycle.

Smaller products use fewer natural resources, she said. And Apple’s well-built devices prove less wasteful in the long run.

“Durability matters,” Jackson said. “We know our products are used a long time.”

For more information on Apple’s environmental efforts, you can check out the company’s 2019 Environmental Responsibility Report (.pdf), out today.