A pile of old iPhones © Press Association Images
A pile of old iPhones © Press Association Images

Apple makes millions through recycling

Apple's recycling schemes recover millions of dollars worth of materials.

Apple recovered 28,000 tonnes of material for reuse, including almost a tonne of gold, from old computers and mobile phones last year.

In its Environmental Responsibility Report 2016 the technology company said it had recovered 61m lbs of steel, aluminum, copper, cobalt, silver, gold and other materials via take-back initiatives and recycling collection events.

The amount of gold recovered alone is worth more than $40m at current prices, with the silver worth around $1.7m.

Other materials recovered (lbs):

Steel 23,101,000

Plastics 13,422,360

Glass 11,945,680

Aluminum 4,518,200

Copper 2,953,360

Colbalt 189,544

Nickel 39,672

Lead 44,080

Zinc 130,036

Tin 4,408

Silver 6,612

Gold 2,204

Source: Apple Environmental Responsibility Report 2016

Apple said that last year it used recycling programmes to collect almost 90m lbs of e-waste, and had stopped more than 597m lbs of equipment going to landfill since 1994.

The company has created an experimental line of robots, called Liam, operating in California and the Netherlands, which can take apart and sort the components of 1.2m phones every year. Apple said there was an opportunity to improve on current recycling techniques which recover a limited number of materials, often of lesser quality.

The report also outlined how the company is dealing with issues including water conservation and protecting forests.

Apple said the electricity used to make its products was the biggest proportion of its carbon footprint. The company said that last year it created a programme of partnering with suppliers to assess their energy use and find ways to reduce it. This included measures such as replacing inefficient heating and lighting and recovering waste heat.

Apple added that it had identified the opportunity for annual savings of more than $32m via energy audits at supplier facilities in China, Taiwan and Japan last year.

Suppliers have cut more than 18m kilowatt ­hours of electricity from improvements, avoiding 13,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, the report said.

The company said it was also working to develop and procure renewable energy in its supply chain, building a 170 megawatt solar project in Inner Mongolia, to begin offsetting its manufacturing emissions. It is working with suppliers on projects to create more than four gigawatts of new clean energy worldwide.

The company is also prioritising aluminium that was smelted using hydroelectricity rather than fossil fuels to build its iPhones, and is also using scrap aluminium, cutting in half the carbon footprint of the aluminium enclosure of the iPhone 6s.

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