For the first time, Apple is putting certified recycled gold in the iPhone. It’s part of the company’s increased use of recycled content across its products. Because of these efforts, nearly 20% of all material used in Apple products in 2021 was recycled, a new high point for the company.
“As people around the world join in celebrating Earth Day, we are making real progress in our work to address the climate crisis and to one day make our products without taking anything from the earth,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, in a press release Tuesday.
Apple also added a new shredderbot that rips apart audio modules to its robot recycling crew.
Recycled gold in Apple products
“Recovering more materials for use in future products helps reduce mining,” Apple said in the press release. “From just one metric ton of iPhone components taken apart by Apple’s recycling robots, recyclers can recover the amount of gold and copper companies would typically extract from 2,000 metric tons of mined rock.”
Apple uses certified recycled gold in the plating of the main logic board and wire in the front and rear cameras of iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.
Recycled tungsten, rare earth elements and cobalt, too
In addition, Apple more than doubled the use of recycled tungsten, rare earth elements, and cobalt. Apple products in 2021 included:
- 45% certified recycled rare earth elements, a significant increase.
- 30% certified recycled tin, with all new iPhone, iPad, AirPods and Mac devices featuring 100% recycled tin in the solder of their main logic boards.
- 13% certified recycled cobalt, used in iPhone batteries that can be disassembled by Apple’s recycling robot Daisy and returned to market.
- 59% of all the aluminum Apple shipped in its products came from recycled sources, with many products featuring 100% recycled aluminum in their enclosures.
Those are the top-line takeaways from Apple’s 2022 Environmental Progress Report (.pdf), which the company published Tuesday.
Refurbished Apple gear
Ultimately, Apple aims to use only renewable or recyclable materials in its products. And it is committed to extending the lifetime of its products through refurbishment.
“In 2021, Apple sent 12.2 million devices and accessories to new owners for reuse, extending their lifetime and reducing the need for future mining,” the company said.
The Mac-maker said it has made significant progress toward the goal of eliminating plastics from its packaging by 2025. Plastics accounted for just 4% of packaging in 2021, Apple said.
Meet Taz the shredderbot
To aid its green efforts, Apple relies on an expanding collection of recycling robots. The latest addition is Taz, “a machine that uses new shredder-like technology to separate magnets from audio modules and recover more rare earth elements,” Apple said.
The company said it expanded the capabilities of its iPhone disassembly robot Daisy to take apart 23 iPhone models. Apple said it “offered to license those patents to other companies and researchers free of charge.”
An additional robot called Dave disassembles Taptic Engines, helping to recover valuable rare earth magnets, tungsten and steel.