Apple committed itself to a new target to use 100% recycled cobalt in all Apple-designed batteries by 2025. And by that same year, the company will use only recycled rare earth elements in its magnets. In addition, it intends to make circuit boards with 100% recycled tin soldering and gold plating.
These commitments build on the company’s goal to eventually make all its products with only recycled and renewable materials.
Apple products heavily depend on recycled materials
Apple does far more than pay lip service to protecting the environment. It’s already carbon neutral for its own operations, and is working toward getting the companies that supply components for its products to fully switch to renewable energy by 2030.
And that’s only one aspect of its environmental efforts. Recycling plays a big role, too.
Cobalt is an important part of enabling the batteries Apple uses to offer high energy density while also being safe and long lasting. Currently, 25% of this metal used by Apple comes from recycled sources. That’s going to 100% by 2025, as noted.
Apple devices use many magnets, and these are currently made with 73% recycled rare earth materials. That percentage is also going to 100% in the next two years.
Anyone who’s never looked closely at a circuit board might be surprised, but they are made with gold. By 2025, all of this metal going into Apple boards will be recycled. As will the tin soldering.
And the commitments to recycled materials Apple made Thursday are hardly its first. Over two-thirds of the aluminum, nearly three-quarters of all rare earths, and more than 95% of all tungsten going into its computers are recycled, according to the company.
“From the recycled materials in our products, to the clean energy that powers our operations, our environmental work is integral to everything we make and to who we are,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement. “So we’ll keep pressing forward in the belief that great technology should be great for our users, and for the environment.”
Domo arigato, Apple Robotto
One source for recycled cobalt is used iPhones. Apple’s disassembly robot, Daisy, automatically separates batteries from other iPhone components. These can then go to specialty recyclers who extract cobalt and other materials, including lithium. Apple estimates that, since 2011, more than 11,000 kilograms of cobalt have been recovered from batteries extracted by Daisy. It also helps recover rare earth elements.
The company’s Dave robot, now in China, can assist in recovering rare earth elements by disassembling Taptic Engines.