Apple takes major leaps in recycling mined products

Daisy disassembles iPhone, retrieving components that contain high-quality materials. Image: Apple

Apple plans to use 100 per cent recycled rare earth elements in a key component of its latest iPhones, according to the company’s environmental reports.

The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will be the first-ever smartphones to use recycled rare earths in their Taptic Engine, a technology that creates the physical illusion of a button press despite being on flat glass.

This means 24 to 28 per cent of the total rare earth elements used in each iPhone will come from recycled sources, instead of mines.

The tech giant also revealed it would use 100 per cent recycled tin in the solder of the iPhones’ main logic board, where the majority of the tin is located.

This would prevent nearly 29,000 tonnes of tin ore to be mined this year.

Apple has spent years in researching and developing the “fearless disassembly robot” Daisy, which has the ability to recover valuable materials in 15 different iPhone models.

Source: Apple’s 2019 environmental responsibility report


“We are launching the next phase of our industry-leading work to better use and reuse materials with a state-of-the-art lab to support our research and innovation with material recovery,” Apple vice president, environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson said.

“This initiative, along with Daisy … means we’re doing even more with the materials from old devices from our customers return for recycling.”

Apple’s propensity to use recycled elements has also seen it replace virgin aluminium with its recycled counterparts for the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini.

The company also announced its partnership Alcoa and Rio Tinto last year in commercialising patented technology that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminium smelting process.

Apple also requires its identified tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt smelters and refiners to participate in third-party audits.

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