Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report reveals some rather nasty tricks that the company does to kill off the life span of its products.
While the Tame Apple Press has been singing praises of Apple’s environmental record based on the report it is choosing to ignore some very important environmental misses.
While Apple said that its aim is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate, that is mostly a moonshot plan and not as important as Jobs’ Mob actually doing something itself.
The most important is Apple’s current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could to salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap and reuse them.
Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused — instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.
After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale.
While this is great for Jobs’ Mob, it means that users are forced to buy new gear, which places a strain on the environment.
Fruity tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple might have surprised the world by getting its Airpods into the shops in time for Christmas, but it turns out they are as useful as having too much ear wax.
Early buyers of the ear-buds say that they fall out, which can be expensive if you lose one down the back of the sofa. But it turns out that in addition to being expensive, they will be a major problem for recyclers.
Jobs’ Mob has been touting its environmentally friendly image of late having come under fire in the past for constructing its devices so tightly that their components can be difficult to cost-effectively disassemble for recycling.
Apple’s AirPods are a back to the days of creating environmental time bombs. Apple glued-in tiny lithium batteries that make recycling difficult.
Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit said that Apple was claiming that these are the future of headphones which means that the planet will see a billion of these things over the next decade.
Apple claims the $159 AirPods can be returned to the company for recycling but it did not say how it would go about recycling it itself.
The AirPods contain three lithium-ion batteries, one in each pod and one in an accompanying charging case.
Recyclers shred wired headphones and send them to a smelter that will melt them down for the copper inside. But the lithium-ion batteries in AirPods cannot be shredded because they could catch fire while being destroyed.
The AirPods warn that the they cannot be thrown away in the trash and should be disposed of as electronics waste.
Recyclers say it would be too expensive to recycle because it could not be done by hand because it would be too expensive. What is likely then is that the batteries would be shipped to some Chinese landsite where they would be dumped and leak toxic waste which would eventually kill polar bears.
Last week Apple announced to the world that through its recycling efforts it recycled $40 million worth of gold – the only problem was that nothing about the claim was true.
The story was taken up by the Tame Apple Press which lapped up the story, after all not only was a quirky story it was a good way to give their favourite brand a free plug.
However Motherboard smelt a rat when the numbers did not add up and did some digging
Apple would have had to have collected 33.3 million iPhones to recover that much gold and rather than refurbish and resell these iPhones for hundreds of dollars apiece in developing nations, Apple decided to destroy them to harvest roughly $1 worth of gold per device.
Basically what really happened was Apple paid independent recyclers to recycle old electronics—which were almost never Apple products. It is legally obligated to do so. So Apple never collected $40 million it actually ended up paying for the service.
In the US Apple has to recycle a certain amount of e-waste which is equal to its market share. Which is why Apple note that it recycled “71 percent of the total weight of products we sold seven years earlier.” That is not because it is a super cool company which is doing it out of the goodness of its heart, it is doing that because it has to.
Though Apple does have its own iPhone recycling and buyback programs, it accounts for a tiny fraction of the overall e-waste in the country.
In fact, phones and tablets often don’t count toward the overall recycling requirements in many state laws, so Apple has to collect old PCs and tellies to make up its numbers.
The question is why Apple thought it would be a wizard wheeze to spin this story and why did so much of the Tame Apple Press lap it up without checking?
The market for e-waste recycling is set to hit $44.3 billion by the end of the decade, more than four times its current size.
Despite global economic troubles, hardware production continue to grow, meaning more and more products are consigned to the trash heap. Such e-waste creates a headache for vendors and manufacturers, posing health risks in equipment dumping grounds, as well as being an environmental hazard.
Hardware disposal also means writing off valuable metals found in components. These mountains of disused hard drives, processors and other components which have been thrown away are potentially worth large amounts of money when materials such as iron, steel, copper, and zinc are extracted from them.
Many computer components also include amounts of precious metals such as a gold, silver and platinum. According to the United Nations Environment Program, one metric tonne of e-waste contains more gold than 17 metric tonnes of gold ore. Such retrieval is potentially dangerous, however, as hazardous material such as lead, mercury and arsenic gets burnt in the retrieval process.
According to analysts at GBI Research, the market for reusing and recycling these materials is growing as tech products continue to be churned out, rendering old products obsolete within a smaller timeframe. This is in part due to the tougher legislation being put in place by the likes of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which aims to ensure e-waste is not continually dumped on the doorstep of developing countries without a second thought.
Analysts claim this will mean that, by 2020, the cash generated by managing hardware disposal, reusing and recycling will also grow. According to GBI, e-waste spending should hit $44.3 billion by 2020, up from $11.8 billion last year.
This should lead to improvements on the current situation – whereby computers made by big name brands are turning up on the rubbish dumps around the world despite vendors touting their green credentials.
This is also creating problems for those who are binning their unwanted products, and unwittingly opening themselves up for identity theft.