Apple expands use of recycled materials across products

For the first time, Apple introduced certified recycled gold, and doubled down on the use of recycled tungsten, rare earth elements, and cobalt.

The company said nearly 20 percent of all materials used in Apple products were recycled in 2021, the highest ever use of recycled content.

Apple released new details about this progress and its innovative efforts in recycling and clean energy in its 2022 Environmental Progress Report.

“We are making real progress in our work to tackle the climate crisis and even making our products one day without taking anything from the earth,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

“Our rapid pace of innovation is already helping our teams use today’s products to build tomorrow’s future, and as our global supply chain transitions to clean energy, we are charting a path for other companies to follow.”

“Recycled and Responsible Sources”

Apple says it has been “a pioneer in innovations” in recycling and materials sourcing to spur industry-wide change. To help its recycling partners build on this momentum around the world, Apple announced its latest recycling innovation, the Taz, a machine that uses a pioneering approach to improving material recovery from traditional electronics recycling.

In 2021, 59 percent of all the aluminum that Apple shipped in its products came from recycled sources, with many products containing 100 percent recycled aluminum in the can. Apple says it has also made “significant progress” toward the company’s goal of eliminating plastic from its packaging by 2025, with plastic accounting for just 4 percent of packaging in 2021.

Since 2015, Apple has reduced plastic in its packaging by 75 percent.

Our rapid pace of innovation is already helping our teams use today’s products to build tomorrow’s future, and as our global supply chain transitions to clean energy, we’re charting a path for other companies to follow.

In addition, Apple products in 2021 included 45 percent of certified recycled REEs, a “significant increase” since Apple introduced recycled REEs into its devices, Apple says.

This included 30 percent certified recycled tin, with all new iPhones, iPads, AirPods, and Macs featuring 100 percent recycled tin soldered to their main logic boards; and 13 percent is certified recycled cobalt, which is used in iPhone batteries that can be broken down by Apple’s Daisy recycling robot and brought back to market.

Certified recycled gold, featured – for the first time in any Apple product – in the coating of the main logic board and wires in the front and rear cameras of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.

To achieve this feat, Apple created “industry-leading” levels of traceability to build a gold supply chain for exclusively recycled content, it says

At a material recovery lab in Austin, Texas, engineers and experts use an industrial electronic shredder on a pilot scale for research and development. Apple’s latest recycling machine, Taz, is developed from this process and is designed to help traditional bulk electronics recyclers recover more valuable materials.

reduce mining

Apple says taking back more materials for use in future products helps reduce mining. From just one metric ton of iPhone components broken down by Apple’s recycling bots, it says recyclers can recover the amount of gold and copper that companies would typically extract from 2,000 metric tons of mined rock.

Apple says it’s also committed to extending the life of its products through refurbishment. In 2021, Apple sent 12.2 million devices and accessories to their new owners for reuse, extending their life and reducing the need for future mining.

Apple says it aims to use only renewable or recyclable materials in its products — a goal it announced in 2017 that charted the company’s path in design and materials sourcing.

The Taz, a machine that uses new shredding-like technology to separate magnets from acoustic units and recover more rare earth elements, is the latest in a series of developments in recycling led by Apple.

The company has also expanded the capabilities of its patented Daisy iPhone disassembly robot to disassemble 23 iPhone models, offering to license the patents to other companies and researchers for free. An additional robot, Dave, decodes the Taptic motors, helping to recover valuable rare earth magnets, tungsten, and steel.

2022 Environmental Progress Report

In addition to charting progress in recycling, innovation and materials stewardship, Apple’s newly released 2022 Environmental Progress Report highlights the company’s work to become carbon neutral across the global supply chain and the lifecycle of each product, as well as progress in reducing waste and enhancing the safe use of materials in its products.

Apple has been carbon neutral for its global operations since 2020, and has relied on 100 percent renewable energy to power its offices, stores and data centers since 2018, it says/

Apple recently announced that its suppliers have more than doubled their clean energy use over the past year, with more than 10 gigawatts operating out of nearly 16 gigawatts of total commitments in the coming years.

As of April, 213 of the company’s major manufacturing partners have pledged to supply all Apple products with renewable electricity in 25 countries.

In 2021, these renewable projects avoided 13.9 million metric tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of removing 3 million cars from the road for one year.

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