https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/apple-recycling-iphones-macbooksDocuments obtained by Motherboard: "No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."
Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products.
Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap.
Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused—instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.
Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass," John Yeider, Apple's recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called "Takeback Program Report" in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."
Apple is fundamentally a manufacturer, not a recycling company. While its two Liam "recycling robots" looks cool in an ad, they're only capable of disassembling a total of 2.4 million phones per year; Apple sold 215.3 million iPhones in 2016. Most iPhones simply aren't making it back to Apple, and Apple doesn't have the capacity to recycle these phones.
But the company is responsible for recycling thousands of tons of electronics per year thanks to a series of state-level "manufacturer responsibility" laws that require electronics companies to recycle e-waste each year based on their overall sales in that state. To learn more about its recycling practices, I have spent the last year collecting Apple's state recycling reports using Freedom of Information laws around the country.