The time appears to have arrived for green electronics recycling.
Last April, Apple announced that its global facilities would be powered entirely by clean energy. That’s a 100% commitment to fighting climate change and working toward a healthier environment.
Their clean energy now fuels Apple offices, retail stores, and data centers in 43 countries. It’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook called a commitment to “leaving the world better than we found it.”
Now Apple is taking that concept and applying it to something else: their products.
As part of the continued trend among iPhone manufacturers to Go Green, Apple has put more renewable materials into its latest iPhones.
In doing so, the company has helped make a commitment to reducing something else: e-waste, which has become a growing concern globally as the number of consumer electronics being purchased – and, within a few years, replaced with newer versions – skyrockets.
Interestingly, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, recently noted that Apple wants their users to own their devices for longer periods of time.
That’s not an insignificant statement. Last year, Apple acknowledged that it had been slowing down users’ phones over time, so consumers would need to replace them – which, of course, contributes to the challenge of e-waste landing in landfills, where the toxic chemicals within them can end up contaminating the soil and water.
Now Apple is making their batteries last longer and even launched a low-cost battery replacement program.
It’s a significant first step toward a Greener approach to electronics. Are other electronics manufacturers paying attention?
How Is Apple Planning to Go Green?
Apple’s new iPhone Xs and iPhone Xr have plenty of unique green components, the company recently noted. That includes:
- Using recycled tin in their logic boards, which significantly reduces the need for tin ore to be mined;
- Using 35% post-consumer recycled plastic in their speaker enclosures;
- Using 32% bio-based plastic for the cover glass frame.
The company’s commitment is eliminating parts in their devices that require mining for virgin ore to get new metals. Doing so requires a considerable amount of energy and water consumption, and it damages the ecosystem and wildlife habitat around the areas where the mining is being done.
Instead, Apple wants to put more renewable materials into its latest iPhones, making them more environmentally friendly than ever before.
Their commitment is to eliminate altogether the need to pull materials from the Earth, an effort that Jackson called “massive,” and one that starts with finding new ways to make products with recycled or renewable materials.
Why is that important?
What’s the Impact of E-Waste on the Environment?
E-waste is a global concern – one that even the United Nations has focused on as a serious environmental and economic problem – because the recycling rates for used electronics remain stubbornly low.
Today, far too many individuals and businesses simply throw out the electronic devices they no longer want, and they’re ending up in landfills. Since electronics are made with potentially toxic chemicals like mercury and lead, the land around those municipal landfills faces contamination risks if those chemicals leach out into the ground.
And that poses dangers to both our wildlife and to our people.
Another concern is that the amount of e-waste keeps growing, as the insatiable consumer demand for new devices just keeps getting stronger.
Apple addressed that concern as well, noting that they hope to start ensuring products last as long as possible and working to ensure they can be recycled efficiently and cleanly.
This is a new approach, one that addresses a complaint environmental groups have made for years: that far too many electronics products simply are not being built to last, or contain batteries that can’t be removed and stop operating over a specific period of time.
The new Apple software, iOS 12, was designed to guarantee that new phones could last longer.
It’s a good start, and hopefully more manufacturers will follow Apple’s example.
But there’s still a strong need to increase recycling rates for used electronics, by taking any unwanted e-waste to an experienced recycling firm like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation. Their team has been performing environmentally friendly recycling of electronic products for years, disassembling them into component parts so the ones that still have value can be sold for reuse.
The more we can increase recycling of e-waste, the healthier our environment is going to be.
Does the Public Understand the Scope of this Challenge?
Apple and its partners appear to recognize the scope of this environmental problem. They’ve made a commitment this year to build new renewable energy projects – not just in the United States, but around the world.
They range from solar arrays and wind farms to emerging technologies like biogas fuel cells and energy storage technologies.
Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., for example, is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, courtesy of a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation. The new headquarters is also the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in North America.
Outside this country, Apple is partnering with Daini Denryoku, a solar company in Japan, to install 300 rooftop solar systems to generate 18,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy every year for Japanese families.
Apple is also building two new data centers in Denmark to run on 100 percent renewable energy.
As part of a long-term strategy to increase their green credentials, these could prove to be a very smart move for Apple. The Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report recently found that 66% of survey respondents indicated a willingness to pay a higher price for sustainable goods.
Likewise, a Harris Interactive market research study found that 82% of adults keep track of brands with a strong track record for sustainability.
The message here is that a growing number of consumers care about the environment and are likely to reward businesses that take visible and strong steps that contribute to a cleaner and healthier one.
Boosting Rates for Green Electronics Recycling
More and more consumers, in fact, are indicating a clear awareness of the human impact on the environment, and they understand issues of sustainability. What this is producing is a changing marketplace, where being able to demonstrate a green commitment to customers is more important than ever.
Today, innovations in technology have mostly encouraged electronics manufacturers to upgrade devices on a regular basis, offering faster speeds, new use options, and plenty of other advances. That’s fueled a sharp increase in people upgrading their electronics, adding to the e-waste problem.
Environmental groups have been pushing to convince electronics manufacturers to design cleaner, less toxic electronics with longer lifespans, and now Apple has stepped up and done just that.
Good start. But there’s still a major role to be played by consumers and businesses alike to recycle, recycle, recycle.
We all know that laptops and smartphones have changed our lives, and improved them in so many ways, opening up new opportunities for all of us.
The decision by Apple to create a new iPhone that uses more renewable materials and has a longer lifespan will hopefully encourage more electronics manufacturers to follow suit.
Still, environmentalists will tell you it’s important to keep raising awareness about the risks to the Earth’s resources from the growing amount of e-waste. We do need more green electronics that don’t contain toxic chemicals and can be recycled, then remade from the same recycled materials.
But we also need to increase recycling rates, since recycling e-waste is the most effective way to keep it from damaging our environment and our health.
Great Lakes Electronics Corporation has a great reputation for being trusted experts in the recycling and management of waste electronics and other metals.
The unwanted equipment brought to Great Lakes Electronics Corporation is recycled in a responsible, environmentally conscious way, by this family-owned and operated business that prides itself as being environmental stewards.
Great Lakes Electronics Corporation serves customers both large and small, from private customers to large corporations. Contact them today at 888-392-7831 to request a quote.