The electronics industry is notoriously harsh on the planet. Around 60 million metric tons of e-waste end up in landfills each year, and children are sometimes put to work to mine necessary rare earth elements. Technology giant Apple aims to fix these issues in their company. They recently announced plans to use 100 percent recycled materials in all of their devices.
Apple’s aims are ambitious. In addition to using only recycled materials, the company also wants 100 percent of their supply chain to run entirely on renewable energy. They want their packaging to be made of 100 percent responsibly sourced and recycled paper. And they want to stop mining the earth.
Apple has already made progress in many areas. Their data centers are 100 percent powered by solar, wind, or hydropower. 96 percent of their worldwide facilities run on renewable energy and over 99 percent of their packaging is already made with recycled and responsibly sourced materials. But they still have a long way to go.
Apple didn’t offer a specific timeline for their mining goal. “It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it,” the company writes on their website. “We’re moving toward a closed-loop supply chain.” In their 2017 Progress Report, they said they’re challenging themselves to “one day end our reliance on mining” but that will require many years. They pointed to recycling programs and their recycling robots as evidence of progress.
Apple Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson told Vice, “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it. 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.”
Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement Apple’s goal “highlights the need for greater urgency across the sector to reduce resource consumption and e-waste that are causing significant impacts on the environment and human health…While transitioning to 100 percent recycled materials is critical to reducing the sector’s footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair, and recyclable at the end of their life.”