Apple Will Use 100% Recycled Cobalt In Batteries By 2025
Apple has announced a significant acceleration of its efforts to expand the usage of recycled materials across all of its products, including a new aim of using 100% recycled cobalt in all batteries made by Apple by the year 2025. In addition, all Apple-designed printed circuit boards will use 100% recycled tin soldering and 100% recycled gold plating by 2025, and magnets in its devices will be made completely of recycled rare earth materials.
By 2022, the company had increased its usage of important recycled metals, and as a result, more than two-thirds of all aluminum, almost three-quarters of all rare earths, and more than 95% of all tungsten used in its products are now sourced from 100% recycled material. Apple’s 2030 objective to make every device carbon neutral is improved thanks to this quick development, which also moves the business closer to its goal of making all goods out of recycled and renewable materials one day.
“Every day, Apple is innovating to make technology that enriches people’s lives, while protecting the planet we all share,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From the recycled materials in our products to the clean energy that powers our operations, our environmental work is integral to everything we make and to who we are. So we’ll keep pressing forward in the belief that great technology should be great for our users, and for the environment.”
“Our ambition to one day use 100 percent recycled and renewable materials in our products works hand in hand with Apple 2030: our goal to achieve carbon neutral products by 2030,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives. “We’re working toward both goals with urgency and advancing innovation across our entire industry in the process.”
Charting Progress to 2025
Over the past three years, Apple has greatly increased the use of 100% certified recycled cobalt, making it possible to incorporate it into all Apple-designed batteries by 2025. Up from 13% the year before, a quarter of all the cobalt found in Apple products in 2022 originated from recycled materials. Batteries used in most consumer gadgets, including Apple devices, include cobalt, which is essential for achieving high energy density while still fulfilling Apple’s strict standards for durability and safety. The vast bulk of the cobalt used by Apple in its products — including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook, and many other products — was developed for its batteries.
The percentage of 100% certified recycled rare earth elements used by the company has increased significantly over the past year as well, rising from 45% in 2021 to 73% in 2022. Recycled rare earths were originally used in the Taptic Engine® of the iPhone 11. Since then, Apple has used them in a wider range of products, including all of the magnets in the most recent iterations of the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook, and Mac. Due to the fact that Apple uses rare earths primarily in magnets, the new 2025 aim means that eventually nearly all rare earths used in Apple products will be recycled entirely.
All Apple-designed printed circuit boards will utilize 100% certified recycled gold plating by 2025 as part of the accelerated new timeline. This includes both rigid and flexible boards, such as those connected to iPhone’s cameras and buttons, as well as the main logic board. Since establishing the first entirely recycled gold supply chain for plating the main logic board of the iPhone 13, Apple has expanded the material’s use in other parts and products, including the wire of every camera in the iPhone 14 lineup and printed circuit boards for the iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and HomePod. In the electronics sector, Apple is likewise trying to promote a wider use of recycled gold for non-custom components.
On all printed rigid and flexible circuit boards with an Apple design, the company will use only 100% certified recycled tin soldering by 2025. With 38% of the tin used last year coming from recycled sources, the company has recently increased the amount of recycled tin it uses in its products, including the solder on several flexible printed circuit boards. Even more components are currently using recycled tin, and the company is working with new suppliers to make this happen.
Another one of Apple’s 2025 pledges, to stop using plastic in its packaging, has also advanced thanks to innovation. Apple has remained on course to achieve this challenging objective due to the development of fiber substitutes for packaging elements including screen films, covers, and foam cushioning. Apple is introducing new technologies to replace labels, lamination, and other minor applications in order to address the final 4% of plastic in the company’s packaging footprint. Apple created a specialized printer last year to introduce digital printing straight onto the boxes of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, doing away with the majority of labels. Also, the polypropylene plastic lamination on boxes and other packaging elements has been replaced by a new overprint varnish featured in the packaging for the iPad Air, iPad Pro, and Apple Watch Series 8 models. Almost 2,400 tons of carbon dioxide and over 1,100 tons of plastic were saved because to the innovation.
Progress in Responsible Sourcing of Primary & Recycled Materials
Apple is looking for ways to directly support communities whose lives depend on mining while reducing its dependency on newly extracted minerals. The company is partnering with specialists like the Fund for Global Human Rights to support frontline environmental and human rights defenders, including those in the African Great Lakes region, as well as vocational education programs that enable locals leaving the mining industry to develop skills and pursue new opportunities.
Apple supports the highest levels of human rights and environmental standards throughout its supply chain and responsibly sources primary materials. With cobalt in 2016 and lithium in 2020, Apple was the first electronics manufacturer to publish a list of cobalt and lithium refiners in its battery supply chain. The business mapped its rare earths supply chain in 2017. Also, since 2015, every known tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold refiner has taken part in independent third-party audits.
In order to transition to recycled and renewable content, the company has given priority to 14 materials: aluminum, cobalt, copper, glass, gold, lithium, paper, plastics, rare earth elements, steel, tantalum, tin, tungsten, and zinc. These materials collectively make up nearly 90% of the material shipped in Apple products.
Almost 20% of all the materials shipped in their products in 2022 were made from recycled or renewable materials. This includes the introduction of certified recycled steel in the battery tray of the MacBook Air with the M2 chip, the use of recycled copper foil for the first time in the main logic board of the iPad (10th generation), the use of 100% recycled tungsten in the most recent Apple Watch lineup, and the use of aluminum enclosures in numerous Apple products that are made from an alloy of recycled aluminum that was created by Apple.
Innovating for the Future of Recycling
This advancement has been made possible because to Apple’s efforts to break new ground in research and development for recycling and end-of-life disassembly. Apple engineers and subject matter experts are working to find creative ways to repurpose materials used in its products, and the company is assisting in the design of products that support disassembly and recovery through a variety of initiatives, including partnerships with top research institutions and the Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas.
Daisy is a company-built robot that disassembles iPhones, separates batteries from other parts and enables specialized recyclers to recover cobalt and other elements, including lithium. Since 2019, batteries retrieved by Daisy and subsequently sold again on the secondary market are thought to have contained more than 11,000 kilograms of cobalt, according to Apple. Daisy also aids in the recovery of rare earth elements, many of which are lost during conventional electronic recycling procedures.
Daisy is but one example of how Apple’s advances in recycling and disassembly can spur change throughout the industry. By disassembling Taptic Engines, the company’s Dave robot, which is now working with a recycling partner in China, can aid in accelerating the recovery of rare earth elements even more.
The company has also started supplying recycling partners with augmented reality (AR) devices based on overhead projectors. The system projects video imagery directly onto a work area to direct the disassembly of electronics, such as the MacBook and iPad. In order to improve material recovery efficiency while preserving public health and safety, the business produces Apple Recycler Guidelines for use by international recyclers. Enhanced recovery is also pushing it closer to its ambitious aim to be carbon neutral across its entire supply chain and the life cycle of every product by 2030. Recycled and renewable materials can help lower each product’s carbon footprint.
While not being a huge fan of Apple or any smartphone in general, I am a huge fan of recycling and using renewable materials. So Apples “ambitious aim to be carbon neutral across its entire supply chain and the life cycle of every product by 2030” is great! Personally, I do not own a smartphone nor do I have plans of ever owning one. They are too distracting for me and when you don’t own one and look at all the people staring at them it is kind of concerning. But billions of people use them everyday and that is their choice, smartphones are just not for me. Anyway, I’m glad to see Apple is trying to use 100% recycled martials in their products.
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