Old Apple iPhones don't die, they get recycled

Old Apple iPhones don't die, they get recycled
Have you ever wondered how Apple disposes of iPhone units that it can't resell? CNET reported today on the 9,000 square foot warehouse in Austin, Texas that Apple uses to recycle parts from dead iPhone corpses. Inside this warehouse is a robot named Daisy that can disassemble 15 different iPhone models at a rate of up to 200 per hour. You might recall that we told you about her last year. Besides using Daisy to recycle iPhone parts, Apple plans on licensing the technology to other companies. That is, after it receives a patent for the robot.

Apple has a goal, as stated by Lisa Jackson, to make its products from recycled materials. Jackson is Apple's vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives. The company will ship its 1.5 billionth iPhone later this year. Many of these units will eventually be stripped by Daisy. Jackson points out that Apple builds its devices durable enough to survive two or three owners before they get recycled. What the company doesn't like to see is an iPhone owner who purchased a new unit, stick it in his desk drawer when the time comes to upgrade to a newer model. As she points out, "There's 100-plus elements in an iPhone, and we're looking at how to move them back through the chain."


Right now, the iPhone batteries salvaged by Daisy are recycled for the cobalt inside, which is used to produce batteries for new units. The solder used to mount components on logic boards are soldered into place using solder made with 100% recycled tin. And the aluminum that Apple is able to recover from your recycled iPhone could end up as the aluminum enclosure on your MacBook Air. Daisy is able to remove an iPhone display, battery, logic boards, sensors, screws, and the wireless charging coil. What is left is an aluminum chassis.

Apple receives a steady stream of used iPhones from members of its iPhone Upgrade Program


Yesterday, we told you that Samsung is using a 100% plastic-free box for the Galaxy S10 line. Additionally, Samsung is able to recover plenty of materials from its televisions and home appliances (think of all of the metal it can recycle from its refrigerators, washers, and dryers). Both Samsung and Apple are looking to develop what is known as "closed loop" recycling. That means that both Apple and Samsung would take in previously used devices, refurbish them to "as-good-as-new" condition and sell them. Or, the devices would be recycled and some of the materials captured to be used again.

Daisy is used on iPhone models that would cost Apple too much money to refurbish. The robot helps the company recover materials like copper, cobalt, and others that are used again. Last year, Apple received 9 million iPhones back from customers. Of those, 7.8 million were refurbished and 1.2 million were disassembled by Daisy. Apple is trying to get consumers to send them iPhone units that are no longer in use. In the states, Best Buy will accept these devices and pass them on to Apple. The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program allows buyers to pay for their new phones by making 24 monthly installment payments. After 12 payments, the customer can exchange his old iPhone for a new one, which starts a whole new 24 month cycle. And again, after 12 payments are made, the old iPhone can once again be exchanged for the latest model. This helps supply Apple with a steady stream of phones that can be refurbished, or sent to Daisy instead of collecting dust inside a desk drawer.

Apple's environmental strategy

Apple's environmental strategy

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11 Comments

1. iloveapps

Posts: 408; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

No other tech companies closer to what apple is doing to lessen impact in environment.

7. Finalflash

Posts: 4062; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Technically, no other company is doing as much as Apple to reduce the impact of humans on concrete either. Those nets at the Foxconn plants really helped.

11. audibot

Posts: 590; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

recycled as in changing a digit and selling it for 2 more years as the next 2 newer models, i really think all they do is take them back pop the back off and stick a new chip on it and done new phone same everything else

2. domfonusr

Posts: 1057; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Even though I am a trained scientist, I am not among the "97%" of scientists that believe that global warming is almost entirely man-made... too many unknown sources of carbon in the earth, and plenty of places where carbon is being captured that we don't see yet... in any case, I still think we need further study in the climatology field - the science is not truly settled in my book. Just the same, though, I absolutely agree that we should not be wasteful. Apple is making a very admirable push for sustainability, whichever way you may see it. I applaud them in that effort. Waste not, want not... simple as that. We definitely need to find new ways to recycle a broad range of materials that are not currently being recycled with the existing technology. And when possible, give your old phone to a second owner. That's what I did with my LG Fortune... got $10 from an ecoATM for it. Hopefully it will go on to be useful to the next guy.

5. blingblingthing

Posts: 842; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

I don't think we need more that much more study. We're clearing more lands to erect buildings. So that's less trees to cut down on the carbon. We are burning more and more fossil fuel which release more carbons in to the atmosphere.

9. TBomb

Posts: 1134; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Trees can also warm up the temperature of the planet (see: the albedo effect). Volcanic activity also has an impact on carbon levels. We definitely need more research done. In agreement 100% with domfonusr on this one.

3. libra89

Posts: 2221; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

This is interesting to know. I'm glad to hear that Apple does this.

4. miketer

Posts: 493; Member since: Apr 02, 2015

Kudos to Apple for this initiative.

6. Fialho

Posts: 18; Member since: Sep 03, 2015

They do it to save money in raw materials on the long run, not for the sake of the planet. But it is a good initiative that others should follow.

8. dmdzordilla

Posts: 48; Member since: Jul 31, 2018

Nokia does this during the days up until now

10. TBomb

Posts: 1134; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I feel like a lot of OEMs do this? I'd be surprised if Apple was really the only one doing this...

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