Apple recovers $40m in gold from old iPhones and iPads

Apple's recycling program pulls 89 million pounds of materials from used devices

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Apple recovers $40m in gold from old iPhones and iPads Apple’s ninth annual Environmental Responsibility report breaks down the metals pulled from discarded phones, tablets and computers
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  April 17, 2016

In a bid to be environmentally conscious, Apple's recycling program is doing just that, as last year it recovered sixty-one million pounds of metals from used Apple devices, which otherwise would have gone into landfill.

Apple's ninth annual Environmental Responsibility report breaks down the metals pulled from discarded phones, tablets and computers. The results are 2,204lbs of gold, 6,612lbs of silver, 44,080lbs of lead, 23,101,000lbs of steel, 189,544lbs of cobalt and 13,422,360lbs of plastics.

The average smartphone contains around 30 milligrams of gold, used in internal components, such as the circuit board as it has low electrical resistance and does not corrode. According to Business Insider, at the current spot price of $1,229.80 troy ounce of gold, the worth of the 2,204lbs uncovered is worth $40m. Copper was the second the most valuable material recovered with an estimated worth of $6m.

To extract these recyclable materials. Apple uses its recycling robot Liam which was designed and built by Apple engineers in California. The bot works by picking up the device and scanning it to determine the make and model, once that is complete the system can detect every component inside the phone, such as the screws, circuit board and different types of metals, plastics and glass. It uses various suction cups to separate different sections of the device.

On the announcement of Liam, Apple disclosed that the bot "could complete an iPhone disassembly process every 11 seconds, with dozens running through the system at all times. About 350 units are turned around each hour, equivalent to 1.2 million iPhones each year." 

Though Apple has been criticised for designing products that are difficult to repair, resulting in customers throwing away devices, it continues to focus ongoing environmental priorities of renewable energy, safer materials and processes and conserving resources.

 

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