Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Apr 2017 09:12 UTC

Apple has one of the most aggressive sustainability and recycling programs in tech, but it still pulls plenty of metals and toxic rare-earth materials out of the ground to make iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and other products.

That's about to change. The company is set to announce a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry, "to stop mining the earth altogether".

Apple plans to stop mining for rare-earth materials, and exclusively use recycled materials (from iPhones and other Apple products, presumably). Incredibly ambitious goal - one among many environmental goals the company revealed yesterday - and quite laudable. They have the money to blaze these trails, and I'm glad they're using it for this.

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Not convinced by the intentions
by benoitb on Thu 20th Apr 2017 09:36 UTC
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Better than not caring at all I guess.

But if they were genuine in their intentions, they would make their devices repairable.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Not convinced by the intentions
by Kochise on Thu 20th Apr 2017 12:57 UTC in reply to "Not convinced by the intentions"
Kochise Member since:

iPhone 7 : 769€ (32GiB) or 989€ (256GiB) for 138g

This is 5572-7166€ per kg.

Gold is 38410€ per kg. So iPhone is 5.36-6.89x cheaper than gold.

Such a bargain.

Reply Score: 2

v Okay but...
by _QJ_ on Thu 20th Apr 2017 10:20 UTC
RE: Okay but...
by fmaxwell on Fri 21st Apr 2017 01:24 UTC in reply to "Okay but..."
fmaxwell Member since:

A dog in a dress doesn't make a bride.

That was a painful lesson for you to learn on your honeymoon, wasn't it? ;)

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: Okay but...
by TooShy on Mon 24th Apr 2017 10:10 UTC in reply to "RE: Okay but..."
TooShy Member since:

A stupid reply for a not-so-stupid comment.

_QJ_ is partly true, until we don't have the real numbers from Apple's providers...

...We can't say they are "ethical-ecologicoal"...

Please don't be a blind-sheep from your whatever preferred devices provider.

We all must say : -"Good start Apple, but, must be followed by real acts and facts, to prove us your are right."

Reply Score: 1

Welcome initiative
by BlueofRainbow on Thu 20th Apr 2017 17:13 UTC
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This is a welcome initiative as, after-all, mineral resources are limited. Of course, Apple has the cash reserves to have a good probability of success with this venture.

There are the obvious precious metals such as gold but also the copper (circuit traces and wires), indium and tin (transparent electrodes in the displays), and lithium (batteries) and many others in various components.

One challenge though - recovery processes are not perfect and there will be some losses. Unless Apple will also accept recycled metals from other sources (say Samsung), there will always remain a need to mine the metals used in electronic devices. Apple may gain an advantage in being "first" with this approach as this will prevent other device manufacturers to also be able to claim not requiring mining these metals.

It is also possible to realistically consider such an initiative at this time. This is because the supply of electronic gadgets is no longer in the crazy growth mode it was even five years ago. So, one is simply looking at continuously recycling the metal present in the current inventory of devices. Maybe there is a plan to use less and less of these metals with each generation of devices?

As a final thought, this may be an attempt to circumvent the pressure for repairable devices.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Welcome initiative
by Alfman on Thu 20th Apr 2017 19:17 UTC in reply to "Welcome initiative"
Alfman Member since:


As a final thought, this may be an attempt to circumvent the pressure for repairable devices.

Yea, a big part of the picture is not only how we dispose of electronics and recycle them, but also how we can extend their lifespan without disposing of them so much in the first place. This of course is bad for sales, which is why companies don't talk about it ;)

From the article:
That's about to change. The company is set to announce a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry, "to stop mining the earth altogether".

This sounds good on paper, but I question how much this will actually change in the real world. I remember when some companies were supporting the environment buying solar/wind power or whatever, but the dirty coal power didn't actually get curbed because it was just an accounting change. The new green money was simply displacing the existing money that was already being spent on green energy anyways.

In the same vein, if apple buys exclusively recycled materials, well that's great. But if the decrease in supply of recycled materials results in an increase in demand for mined material equal to apple's shifting footprint, then it's all just a marketing ploy.

It doesn't really matter who gets the recycled materials, what's far more important is increasing the supply of recycled material so that less mining is needed in the first place. In this light the move to put one's brand on recycled material seems a bit petty to me if that's all it is. What we really need is a more holistic approach.

Edited 2017-04-20 19:18 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Welcome initiative
by BlueofRainbow on Thu 20th Apr 2017 22:49 UTC in reply to "RE: Welcome initiative"
BlueofRainbow Member since:


I also wish that devices could be more easily repaired. However, the drive toward more power in smaller fashionable devices means that this is becoming more and more difficult from an engineering view point. Nevertheless, displays should remain replaceable because of their fragility. Similarly for batteries because of their finite life-span.

So far nearly all headlines about this initiative by Apple emphasize the "stop mining" and "recycling of Apple devices". However, reading through the document put out by Apple reveals that ultimately some of the materials and metals will actually be recycled from global waste sources.

This may be just a marketing strategy after-all. Only time will truly tell. Yet, the expression of such an ideal will eventually drive others to aim for greater recycling of materials and metals in the manufacture of their products.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Welcome initiative
by kwan_e on Thu 20th Apr 2017 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Welcome initiative"
kwan_e Member since:

However, the drive toward more power in smaller fashionable devices means that this is becoming more and more difficult from an engineering view point.

It doesn't need to be repairable by everyone and their grandmother. Just repairable enough (ie, with documentation etc) that such minded people can perhaps make/maintain a business out of it where they can afford the expensive tools to do the job.

Reply Score: 3

v Too Expensive?
by XD3l on Thu 20th Apr 2017 21:41 UTC
by Adurbe on Thu 20th Apr 2017 23:02 UTC
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I think this is more of a geopolitical move than pure environmental.

Many of the "rare earth minerals" are mined from China. And the state itself has been stockpiling for Years.

At last count (2015) China controls 85-95% of the global supply of rare earths, with 70% of the world's light rare earths coming from a single mining operation in Inner Mongolia.

With the Trump presidency and the North Korea politics in that region, the political stability and therefore access to those minerals are now being called into question. Apple is taking steps to mitigate that risk.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Geopolitical�
by joekiser on Fri 21st Apr 2017 11:53 UTC in reply to "Geopoliticalâ"
joekiser Member since:

With the Trump presidency and the North Korea politics in that region

Funny you mention that. It was recently discovered that NK has one of the largest rare earth deposits on earth.

China was purchasing rare earth materials from NK because NK lacks the ability to refine them, and China can purchase the NK rare earths for their smartphone manufacturing much cheaper than mining it themselves.

But oh noes! North Korea just stopped shipping rare earths to China in March.

I wonder what's going to happen now that NK is sitting on a trove of necessary manufacturing elements, but not willing to play with anybody anymore?

Reply Score: 2

Unexpandable RAM!
by Softfailur on Thu 20th Apr 2017 23:23 UTC
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Let's not forget the fact that in 2017 this company still offers a computer with soldered-on, unexpandable, staggering 4 GB RAM (i.e. base model of Mac mini). Paraphrasing one of Apple's marketing slogans: 'It's broken out of the box!'.

This also applies to these new and shiny (Thunderbolt3/USB-C) MacBook Pros. Almost every type of work one will do with 8 GB RAM configs ends up with a swap file. So flash storage is degenerating so much faster over time. And guess what... in the TouchBar-equipped models it is irreplaceable. It is literally part of the main computer board. So any eventual SSD repair/replacement needed ends up with replacing the whole computer...

As long as this argument stands correct, every Apple's "action" to become more environmentally friendly company should be perceived accordingly.

Reply Score: 1

So where do they get the raw materials?
by fmaxwell on Fri 21st Apr 2017 01:27 UTC
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Maybe Apple is buying up the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones in order to reclaim materials with which to manufacture iPhones.

Edited 2017-04-21 01:28 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Theoretically good
by lighans on Fri 21st Apr 2017 06:51 UTC
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Above posters made some clear points.

If this is a real sustainable way producing phones, I welcome it. I also like to see them invest in better labour conditions. These Chinese slaves will be very thankful. Oh no, they will move there factories to America off course....

Reply Score: 1

by unclefester on Sat 22nd Apr 2017 02:02 UTC
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"Rare Earths" are not rare. The name 'rare' relates to the fact that the elements are always found in complex ores and not easily purified.

The only problem with rare earths is that they are mostly processed in unsafe backyard operations in China.

Reply Score: 3