Apple wants to totally rely on recycled parts for new iPhone models



An Apple facility in Austin, Texas employs a worker that never complains about hours or pay. This tireless worker never takes time off, even for lunch, and there are never any words of dissension spoken. If you haven't figured it out yet, this is a robot whose job is to tear down old iPhone models and extract 14 minerals from them for use in future iPhones. According to Reuters, the robot named Daisy is part of Apple's plan to become a "closed-loop" manufacturer.

In four steps, Daisy can remove the battery from an iPhone using a blast of freezing cold air measured at -176 degrees Fahrenheit. It also removes screws and modules including the haptic module that makes an iPhone vibrate. Daisy can disassemble up to 200 iPhone units in an hour, and the components it removes are sent to recycling companies where the minerals are extracted.

Apple's plan to rely totally on recycled minerals is impossible to achieve according to some experts


Apple's goal is to rely on the recycling of minerals for its production needs rather than purchasing supplies from mining companies. As wonderful as that might sound to environmentalists, analysts say that such a target is impossible to reach. For example, Kyle Wiens, the founder of device repair company iFixit, says, "There’s this ego that believes they can get all their minerals back, and it’s not possible." Wiens would rather Apple focus on repairing old iPhone models rather than trying to recycle them.


But last year Apple said that Daisy is used on iPhone models that would be too costly to refurbish. In 2018, the latest data we have, Apple received back from customers 9 million iPhone units. 7.8 million of these were refurbished by Apple and 1.2 million were disassembled by Daisy. The batteries are salvaged for the cobalt inside which is reused to produce new batteries. Besides the battery, Daisy can remove an iPhone's display, sensors, screws, logic boards and the wireless charging coil. This leaves an aluminum chassis.

Apple reuses the aluminum for new units and the solder used to mount components on an iPhone logic board is made from 100% recycled tin. Apple prefers to have its old iPhones either refurbished or recycled. What it doesn't want to see is someone shoving an old iPhone into a desk drawer collecting dust. As the company stated last year, "You may be done with your device, but chances are it still has more to give. If it’s in good shape, we’ll help it go to a new owner. If not, we’ll send it to our recycling partner, so we can save more precious materials and take less from the earth. And if it’s an iPhone, it could even go to Daisy, our disassembly robot that can efficiently recover the resources inside."

Mining company executives, who obviously are not pleased with the reuse of the materials that they sell, point out that Apple's plan won't disrupt the industry since there are more products, such as electric cars, that will require the use of mined materials. Apple says that the mining industry can relax as the company isn't looking to compete with them. Lisa Jackson, Apple's head of environment, policy and social, says, "We’re not necessarily competing with the folks who mine. There’s nothing for miners to fear in this development."

Last year, Jackson said that Apple builds the iPhone to be durable enough to have two to three owners before it is time to recycle it. Restating Apple's goal, Jackson pointed out that "There's 100-plus elements in an iPhone, and we're looking at how to move them back through the chain." But not every manufacturer can even contemplate such a thing. "Apple is in an enviable position because they can do this," pointed out Tom Butler, president of the International Council on Mining and Metals industry trade group. "Not everyone else will be able to follow suit." But Apple is thinking about sharing Daisy's technology with other companies, including electric car makers.

Apple introduced Daisy back in 2018, noting that the robot was created from the parts used in a previous Apple robot named Liam.

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16 Comments

1. Derekjeter

Posts: 1577; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

When you buy recycled leather furniture the price is half of new leather furniture, Apple will charge double the price using recycled parts. They will claim they are saving the world and you can too for just $2000.

3. mackan84

Posts: 685; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Or they could just not give a cr*p about the environment and not do this...?

4. Derekjeter

Posts: 1577; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Sure, cuz that’s exactly why they would do it. To save the environment.

7. mackan84

Posts: 685; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

They’ll not save a lot of money on it that’s for sure. But the main cause would be to save the environment before it f***s with the business, like laws or bad press that would interfering to produce 150 million of iPhones per year. In the long run a small step is great for our future kids, but hey it’s Apple. You can’t even give them that, right...?

9. Vancetastic

Posts: 1880; Member since: May 17, 2017

I think it's just hard for me to imagine one of the richest companies in history, with insane profits, doing anything benevolent, but who knows? Maybe Tim was visited by three Christmas ghosts a couple of weeks ago.

12. MrMalignance

Posts: 352; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@mackan84: it's yet to be seen how much they'll save. On its face, it seems obvious that repurposing old parts would save money. Since the basic boards they use don't change much, the possibility of tweaking it slightly to make it work is very possible and very probable. As for not giving them that... Given their looooong track record of doing selfish things, it seems likely that it's a spectacularly well spun cash grab. It will be shown in time the true reasons behind their decision.

13. mackan84

Posts: 685; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Even iFixit-founder doesn’t believe it’s possible to extract and re-use the minerals. Besides they will send it to some company to restore it. If it becomes possible it might be some economical gain in the future. Trust me when I say this is to hold back environmentalists from preventing Apple from producing 150 million iPhones a year and good publicity. Apple don’t like to be associated with cobalt mining children among other things.

14. MrMalignance

Posts: 352; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@mackan84: they may not be able to get all of the minerals back, but clear as day, in the article, it says they hope to resell to a new owner or salvage usable bits. I'm not sure about salvaging bits to be recycled, but refurbishing and reselling a unit definitely has money making potential. As for the mining children, Lisa from Apple says miners have nothing to fear.

17. mackan84

Posts: 685; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Didn’t think you were stuck in the refurb-part of the article. That Apple has been doing for years among a heck loud of other businesses around the world. Of course that way they will make profit, just look at all refurbished smartphones on eBay. I was referring to recycled materials and minerals. Recycled Aluminum have been used in a lot of MacBooks as of late for example. Of course Samsung and everyone else is buying from cobalt mining children inc, so they’ll do fine.

2. User123456789

Posts: 1348; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Let's pretend is about helping nature and not increasing profits.

5. jjface

Posts: 270; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

Recycle design, recycle parts, recycle farts As long as they make billions of $ it is a great idea

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 31764; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Recycle the parts, recycle the price too then.

10. tokuzumi

Posts: 2002; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

They'll just use old motherboards from 4-5 year old phones in their new devices. You'll pay $1000+ for 5 year old technology.

16. iushnt

Posts: 3174; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Recycle materials not technology!!

11. inFla

Posts: 217; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

Its for profit, not the environment.

15. tedkord

Posts: 17512; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Anyone else been here long enough to remember the tard who used to constantly claim that Samsung didn't sell any phones, they just kept recycling the parts into new phones? Looks like Apple is copying Samsung again...

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