Apple has for years prided itself on being a leader of implementing environmentally sound practices. Whether it’s being hailed as the world’s greenest company for three years running, its encouragement of 100% sustainable energy-based manufacturing facilities, or the fact that Apple Park will run entirely on renewable solar energy, the Silicon Valley tech-giant has increasingly sought to rely less on the Earth and its resources. But in the spirit of Earth Day, 2017, Apple is laying out perhaps its boldest new environmental initiative yet — to effectively bring an end to mining the Earth for resources and minerals, which would otherwise be incorporated into the manufacturing of new Apple products.
According to its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, which was uploaded to the web and is also available in PDF format, Apple indicated that it’s currently working to implement a “closed loop supply chain,” which would allow it to halt all mining of the Earth for metals and rare minerals (including Gold), while opting instead to eventually rely on the materials extracted and recycled from older products — such as iPhones — to manufacture new ones. “One day, we’d like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products,” the company said in its report.
“We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it,” added Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa P. Jackson, who also served as the EPA head during former President Barack Obama’s first term, in an exclusive interview with VICE News. “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.”
Since the latter majority of materials that go into manufacturing a new iPhone are not recycled, what Apple is hoping to do is rely more on components extracted from older iPhones, while also incorporating “high quality recycled metas” purchased directly from its suppliers. As such, Apple plans to continue encouraging its customers to recycle their older, worn-out iPhones through the Apple Renew recycling program, while dichotomously ramping up investment in its powerful iPhone-dismantling robot, Liam, which at peak production, can dismantle an entire iPhone in just 11 seconds, according to Mashable.
Apple has aggressively sought to transition its worldwide operations to rely on renewable energy sources, too, and recently announced that several of its key supply chain partners have already begun that transition to wind, solar, and hydro-based energy. Later on in its Environmental Responsibility Report, Apple also outlines a number of its other environmental milestones, including how 96% of the energy used to power its worldwide operations comes from renewable sources, and how 100% of the power that drives Apple’s myriad of data centers around the world comes from solar, wind, and water-based energy sources.