Apple vows to quit mining Earth for materials - end to gem-iPhones?

 Do you ever stop to think what your phone is made of? Neither do we, to be fair. We go about discussing what’s inside, in terms of processors, storage drives, etc., and almost never consider what those bits are a mould of. Most smartphones nowadays are an amalgamation of almost 70 of periodic table elements, with up to 62 kinds of metal and often up to 16 out of 17 rare world elements. Hey, doesn’t that mean your iPhone is literally a semi-gem? It only makes sense, right?

Apple just released its 2017 Environment Responsibility Report, detailing its initiative to “stop mining the earth altogether” for extraction of materials for its production force. The company has previously been caught up in scandals related to children mining cobalt in Congo, which element the company then bought and used in its devices. Apple vows in the report to start making products entirely from recycled materials, citing climate change and limited earthly resources. 

The Cupertino company is one of the pioneers of a full-blown shift to recycled materials and sustainable production. In an exclusive interview for Vice, Apple VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, admitted that the company is “a little nervous” with the project, as they may not still know how exactly to attain the set goal. The ultimate aim, she explained, would be to make iPhones and other gadgets out of quality recycled parts only, collected through return schemes.

Apple is aware of the fact that only 10-15 years from now, we may not be able to extract some key elements from Earth’s crust that are critical for modern phones’ functioning. A research at Yale in 2013 tested possible replacements and alternatives for the 62 metals inside a smartphone. Guess what – the tested replacements did not perform nearly as good as the original material. 

Even if we weren’t stuck with capped resources, mining is one of the most prominent polluters of waters and soils globally, due to waste materials being dumped in nature. We don’t even want to begin to talk about labour conditions at some mines, or the legality of workforce therein.

Apple hopes to set a global example with its course of action. The company already powers its facilities with up to 96% of renewable energy, while the latest Environment report also raises the bar for the likes of Samsung, LG, Google and other tech giants. Environmental responsibility has turned into a widely accepted corporate virtue in the public eye, which many manufacturers wouldn’t omit to show off in the years to come.

source: Vice via 9To5Mac



1. notfair

Posts: 755; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

The solution is products that are durable and repairable and if possible upgradeable, and also whenever possible use sustainable and recycled materials. The most environmentally friendly product is the one that never gets made, because the old one still works. Unfortunately that wouldn't be good for Apple as a business (and it's definitely against their corporate culture), unless consumers demand that in masses, forcing them to change to serve the market. On the other hand, Apple and other phone manufacturers are to blame because they push out a new phone every year with a huge advertising campaign to encourage you to upgrade.

4. Ray.S

Posts: 459; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Your scenario involves a slower technological progress, which I don't think would be good at all in the long run. The faster we can improve our technology, the better. The solution is to figure out how to avoid mining altogether without compromising product quality.

5. SaRPeR

Posts: 147; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

I think Google's Project Ara was a good solution. Just changing the parts that need to be upgraded would keep the mining minimum although it wouldn't stop mining altogether.

6. notfair

Posts: 755; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

Ray, are you sure that this will slow down the technological progress? I mean don't you see that all around us is a gold rush? sell sell sell sell .. it's chocking our society. We must consume, this is what we are, this is how they created us.

8. Ray.S

Posts: 459; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

It sure will slow down progress, because there's a limit to how much you can upgrade a device, and a slower rate of change (in tech products) means slower innovation/progress. Shorter lifecycles generally mean faster evolution, though of course, the lifecycle should still be long enough to allow meaningful new things to be implemented. And then, who said one should purchase each and every generation of a product? And the upgradable phone just fails to resolve the issue, as you'll still be buying upgrade components (components that have to be manufactured just the same way), so in effect you'll still be buying new products, only in pieces. Such scenario also means fragmentation (different companies making components for the same product, but with no unified principles), compatibility issues, and more complexity. The all-in-one products we have now are a much superior concept, it's just the technology of how they are build that needs to be revolutionized.

20. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Ray i disagree. Desktop computer tech is increasing year after year ( GPU more than all others part ) So making an upgradable phone is the solution. buying 1 soc upgrade would mean MUCH less material used unless you beleive a soc use as much material as a full phone? As for the rest of what you said again i disagree completely PC proven its can work very well. Even many good laptop now you can change ram, cpu and even gpu in some cases. All in one product is a scam to sell more.

9. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

we need more modern e-waste recycling plant (China have some, but still far from enough) btw, smartphones is just one of many problems in this topic :-/ durable, upgradable smartphone won't really help it.. just look at those big electronics appliances, like TV, washing machine, refrigerator, microwave, server racks and lots more.. lets say someone keep his refrigerator for 10 years before getting new one, compare that e-waste size to 10 smartphones (if he get a new one every years).. or compare it to 50 smartphones (assuming 5 persons share that refrigerators in his house), one refrigerator still much bigger.. btw, apple make their next macpro upgradeable.. (just like what normal PC always do)

11. mikehunta727 unregistered

We can recycle rare earth minerals, it's just really energy intensive to do so and not exactly that efficient so it's not the best choice. And yeah Apple's next Mac Pro is sounding pretty decent, with now Pascal supoort for Mac OS, thatd be cool to swap between Nvidia/AMD GPU's in it

2. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

vow to quit... but when?

3. drunkenjay

Posts: 1696; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

good for apple. a step towards a positive direction.

7. nikhil23

Posts: 467; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

Good Initiative

10. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

So what you get is an vegetable iPhone? Or water iPad? It's just PR bait, and as usual iphonearena took it.

12. Unordinary unregistered

You're an idiot.

15. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

And so are you sheep.

19. Unordinary unregistered

From having faith in the most green-safe most environmentally friendly technology company in the entire world? Lmao. Keep being stupid.

21. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Not because of that, but because of being a heavily biased troll. Lmao. Keep being stupid.

22. Unordinary unregistered

And you aren't? LMFAAOOOOOOO

24. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I ain't completely unbiased, no one is. At least I'm not on your level of bias, you reek of butthurt when someone criticizes your beloved company LMFAO

16. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

Lol he is spot on. The idiots are the people that actually think Apple has anyone's interest in mind. They are the greediest company ever bar none,

17. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"They are the greediest company ever bar none," Nos that's funny.

13. p51d007

Posts: 705; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

Make the d*mn phones UPGRADEABLE! People throw these things away every couple to 4 years, they end up in a landfill, or some landfill in a 3rd world country. The phones in the last couple years are FAST ENOUGH! Stop making faster and faster's NOT needed!

14. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

Please, this project stops dead in its track if it affects their profit margins. Only way Apple makes any traction on this if their isheep foot the bill for it. And since their phones keep getting more expensive every year without their consumers getting anything that would suggest the increase prices are going straight to Apples pockets and not the hardware. So the isheep just might foot the bill for this but I think even their isheep have a saturation point. So I don't see this initiative happening being successful. It's really up to Foxconn and Samsung if they are willing to spend the $$$$ on Eco friendly factories. Samsung maybe, but foxxcon and pegatron won't.

18. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3147; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

What new hardware features will the iPhone 8 bring? If none, then the progress of technology hasn't been slowed one bit. Other than a shiny new paint job, what's Apple's reason for a new iPhone if it isn't the glutton for more money to add to the $250+ billion kitty? I'm sorry Ray S. but your argument doesn't hold water. If Apple is serious about conservation then they need to produce to demand with their current offerings and wait until there's something truly new to ramp up resource culling. If Apple's really serious about conservation they could produce viable software to open other avenues for revenue. But that's not the fast buck they lust after, is it? I'm in my 50s so I won't live to see the mess that's being seeded right now but if the younger generation doesn't acquaint itself with the works of the 60s and 70s crowds who were the pioneers in environmental issues, good luck. The water in Flint tastes pretty good compared to what's going to happen just 50 years from now.

23. Ninetysix

Posts: 2965; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

25. HanoiBoi

Posts: 43; Member since: May 05, 2016

Functional illiterate

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