Apple aims for closed-loop supply chain

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
21 April 2017

Apple has pledged to build its iPhone from entirely recycled materials.

In its latest sustainability report Apple said it was aiming for a “closed-loop supply chain” that would eliminate the need for mining, though it has set no date for achieving this.

“Traditional supply chains are linear,” said the report. “Materials are mined, manufactured as products and often end up in landfills after use. Then the process starts over and more materials are extracted from the earth for new products.

“We believe our goal should be a closed-loop supply chain, where products are built using only renewable resources or recycled material.

“It’s an ambitious goal that will require many years of collaboration across multiple Apple teams, our suppliers and specialty recyclers – but our work is already under way.”

Apple said it had developed lines of disassembly robots, named Liam, that could take apart 2.4m phones a year. It has created “material risk profiles” for 44 materials that identify their environmental, social and supply risks.

As a result the company is focusing on recycling materials including aluminium, tin and cobalt.

Lisa Jackson, VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, told Vice News: “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it.

“So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.

“We are committing as a company to not necessarily having to source from the earth for everything that we need.”

Apple has also pledged to use nothing but renewable energy across its facilities worldwide and it is “helping our suppliers reduce the amount of energy they use”.

Some 99% of paper in packaging is from recycled or responsibly-managed sources and the company is working to eliminate waste to landfill.

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