Apple unveils new recycling technology for iPhones

March 23, 2016 0 By Amanda Giasson

Apple has revealed a new robotic system that can recover valuable materials from wasted iPhones.

and recovering valuable materials, such as silver and tungsten, which can be recycled. The new recycling technology system is called Liam.

The new recycling system can take apart one iPhone 6 every 11 seconds.

According to a report from Reuters, Liam has been under development for almost three years. While Apple does intend to expand the system so it can handle different devices and recover more resources, currently the machine has been designed to specifically focus on the iPhone 6.

The robotic system began operation last month and can disassemble one iPhone 6 device every 11 seconds. At that speed and working without interruption, it is likely that Laim will be able to handle taking apart a few million phones per year. However, this would only be a small fraction of the phones Apple has sold (the company sold over 231 million phones in 2015 alone). That being said, it’s definitely a start and a step in a greener direction for the company, which has been criticized for developing a product that is difficult to take apart, refurbish and reuse.

Apple has plans to expand its recycling technology efforts.

According to Apple, Liam can recover aluminum, tungsten, tin, copper, gold, silver and cobalt parts. The recycling system is composed of 29 robotic modules on a single site near the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. Its primary focus will be on iPhone 6 devices sold in the U.S., where the company attains approximately 40% of its revenue. Apple also said that a second Liam will be installed in Europe.

In addition, Apple works with a third party recycling firm, which handles its e-waste. However, Apple’s VP of environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson, said that there is room for improvement.

“We need more R&D if we are going to realize the idea of a circular economy in electronics,” Jackson commented in regard to a goal to reuse more materials via as many cycles as possible.

In spite of criticism that the design of its devices is not eco-friendly, Apple has no intention of changing its design approach. Instead, according to Jackson, the company is working on better ways to disassemble its devices and recover as much reusable material as possible and sell it to other industries. As time goes on, the company hopes its recycling technology will enable it to reuse more materials in future products.

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