Today’s Solutions: January 28, 2023

Since Apple announced in 2017 its ambitious goal of making all new iPhones, Macs and other products from 100 percent recycled or renewable materials, its progress has been hard to track. Last month, however, Apple grounded its aspirations in action, publicly sharing materials recovery rates and providing details of how they are incorporating high-value materials back into new products. For instance, Apple’s material recovery robots, known as Daisy, are now able to disassemble 15 iPhone models at the rate of 200 per hour, which means each Daisy robot can theoretically disassemble more than a million devices per year. Of course, that’s just a fraction of the more than 216 million iPhones that Apple sold in 2017 alone, but it represents a meaningful step towards materials recovery and reuse. To improve recovery and recycling rates, Apple is expanding its take-back program through partnerships with Best Buy and Dutch telecom company KPN, which will accept Apple’s customer returns. According to today’s report, Apple refurbished more than 7.8 million devices in 2018, diverting more than 48,000 metric tons of e-waste from landfills. Another detail worth knowing about Apple’s environmental efforts is that the tech giant is already incorporating some materials from disassembled products in new products. This includes cobalt from iPhone batteries, aluminum from MacBook Air enclosures, tin from the solder on logic boards and copper from seven iPhone components. The truth is Apple still has a long way to go to fulfill its closed-loop aspirations, but so far, it’s making strides toward a circular model of materials flows and showing other tech companies how to reclaim and reuse valuable materials that previously had largely gone to waste.

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