What happens when electronics come to the end of their useful life? For the vast majority of these devices, they either collect dust somewhere in our homes or offices or get sent to the landfill.According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only12.5 percentofelectronic waste,or e-waste, is recycled in the U.S.
Bloombergrecently dug intoApples e-wasteproblemnamely the fate of the more than 570 million smartphonesthat have been sold since the first generation iPhone debuted in Jan. 9, 2007and found that the tech giant has collected more than 40,000 tons of e-waste in 2014, recovering enough steel to lay 100 miles of railway track.
Apple has sold 570 million iPhones in the past 9 years. What happens to these phones when they reach the end of the road? Photo credit:Flickr
Its clear that our increasingly digital world has left ashocking impact on our planet. These gadgetsrequire amassive amount of energyto manufacture and its potentially hazardouscomponents can havea toxic and evendeadlyimprint on planetary inhabitants.
With agrowing number of smartphones, computers andtablets piling up in our drawers or the landfill, United Nations officialsestimatedthat the volume of e-waste generated worldwide is expected to climb by 33 percent by 2017 to 65 million tons.
Apple will have to face thismounting e-wastecatastrophe as each
comes along. However, asLisa Jackson, Apples vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives told Bloomberg,Apple has led theindustry in recycling efforts:
In the electronics recycling business, the benchmark is to try to collect and recycle 70 percent, by weight, of the devices produced seven years earlier. Jackson says Apple exceeds that, typically reaching 85 percent, including recycling some non-Apple products that customers bring in.
That means it will have to get hold of and destroy the equivalent of more than 9 million of 2009s iPhone 3GS models this year around the world. With iPhone sales climbing to 155 million units last fiscal year, grinding up Apple products is a growth business.
Apple has afree reuse and recycling programthat allows users to turn in their old iPhones, iPads or computers (Mac or PC) for Apple gift cards if the device qualifies for reuse. If it doesnt qualify for reuse, Apple will recycle it at no cost to the consumer.
Apple works with the Hong Kong-based electronics recycler Li Tong Group that follows a strict and secretivemulti-stepprocess that consists of breaking down every single element of an old phone and capturing 100 percent of thechemicals and gasses thats released during the process, Bloomberg reported.
Jackson saidthat the never-endingbuildup of new tech gear is a global issue.
Theres an e-waste problem in the world, JacksontoldBloomberg. If we really want to leave the world better than we found it, we have to invest in ways to go further than what happens now.
Jackson, who once headedthe U.S. Environmental Protection Agecny, has achieveda number of green initiatives since she was tapped to take charge ofApples environmental affairs in 2013. Frombanning a number oftoxicchemicalsfrom their products tooverseeingthe companys $1.5 billion green bond,the largest such bond from a U.S. business.
Apple has banned these chemicals in their products out of concern for the environment. Photo credit: Apple
The Cupertino, California-based company is currently running its entire nation-wide operation on 100 percent renewable energy and has committed to running its overseas supply chain on renewables as well.
I think people expect it of us. I think our customers hold us to a high standard, Jackson told Bloomberg.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is a big believer in big businessestaking charge on environmental sustainability.
The environment must also be on the business agenda, hesaidin a speech at Bocconi University in Italy in November.
As business leaders, we have a responsibility to address this, and urgently, he continued. We have obligations to our companies and our shareholders becauseclimate changeimpacts supply chains, energy crises and overall economic stability.
Written by Lorraine Chow. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
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