Apple Tackles E-Waste With iPhone Recycling Robot 'Liam'

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At its media event on Monday, Apple kicked off by discussing its efforts to reduce waste and improve its renewable energy infrastructure, marking a heightened focus on the company's environmental responsibilities.

As part of the presentation, the company also unveiled a robotic system it has developed that can disassemble old iPhones and recover recyclable materials.

The robot, called 'Liam', was introduced in a video showing how it deftly deconstructs an iPhone in order to repurpose a range of materials.

Liam is seen in the video rescuing cobalt and lithium from the battery, separating gold and copper from the camera, and extracting silver and platinum from the main logic board.


Apple revealed that the Liam system went into full-capacity service last month after nearly three years in development. It consists of 29 robotic modules on a single site near Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, and is capable of taking apart an iPhone every 11 seconds. A second robot is being installed in Europe.

The company said that Liam will initially focus on recycling junked iPhone 6 handsets, but Apple plans to modify and expand the system to deconstruct different models and recover more resources.

The robot appears to be a response to criticisms that components used in Apple's devices can be difficult to disassemble, refurbish and reuse. However, according to Reuters, Liam can likely handle no more than a few million phones per year, which is a small fraction of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.

Greenpeace welcomed Apple's initiative as a good example of the company's environmental commitments, but the group questioned how much of an impact the Liam robot would actually have on overall iPhone recycling volumes. The bulk of discarded iPhones go through independent e-waste recyclers, which will not have access to Liam.

"If it's easy for a robot, that's great," said Greenpeace IT analyst Gary Cook, speaking to Reuters. "But making it easier for a human, who will be doing most of this, is part of the solution."

Last May, Apple received a perfect scorecard in Greenpeace's Clean Energy Index report, topping Amazon, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Yahoo for its commitment to renewable energy initiatives.

Yesterday's media event also saw the debut of new products, including the iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and new Apple Watch updates.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Apple Tackles E-Waste With iPhone Recycling Robot 'Liam'
 

Benjamin Frost

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The best thing Apple can do for the environment is to make products that last for a very long time.

The best thing we can do as Apple users is to buy their products as infrequently as possible, and make them last a long time.

It's not what Apple would want to hear, but it's the truth. If it leads to lower profits, so be it.
 

John.B

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However, according to Reuters, Liam can likely handle no more than a few million phones per year, which is a small fraction of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.

Greenpeace welcomed Apple's initiative as a good example of the company's environmental commitments, but the group questioned how much of an impact the Liam robot would actually have on overall iPhone recycling volumes. The bulk of discarded iPhones go through independent e-waste recyclers, which will not have access to Liam.

"If it's easy for a robot, that's great," said Greenpeace IT analyst Gary Cook, speaking to Reuters. "But making it easier for a human, who will be doing most of this, is part of the solution."
Clearly they have to start somewhere. It's not like there can only ever be one or two of Liam...

In the mean time, show me the comparable process from any other smartphone manufacturer.
 

0007776

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I wanna point out that the iPhone in the video isn't an existing iPhone. It has the 6(S) design with one big difference: no protruding camera. Which brings up the question: what was going on behind Apple's walls when making this video? It's their video showing off a product with their logo on it that does not exist.
Probably one of two things. Either it was computer generated and the artist messed up on the camera (the most likely) or it is taking apart a prototype that had a flush camera and the camera didn't meet the standards Apple wanted so they changed to a protruding camera.
 
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shareef777

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I wanna point out that the iPhone in the video isn't an existing iPhone. It has the 6(S) design with one big difference: no protruding camera. Which brings up the question: what was going on behind Apple's walls when making this video? It's their video showing off a product with their logo on it that does not exist.
It's a marketing video. I wouldn't put too much thought into it. Most of the video shows the dismantling of an iPhone 6 based devices, yet they show an iPhone 5 devices for the sim tray removal. Why? Maybe cause it looks nicer on camera?
 

baryon

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The best thing Apple can do for the environment is to make products that last for a very long time.

The best thing we can do as Apple users is to buy their products as infrequently as possible, and make them last a long time.

It's not what Apple would want to hear, but it's the truth. If it leads to lower profits, so be it.
Exactly! But when you accidentally upgrade to iOS 9 on your iPhone 4S, you have no other option than to trash your iPhone and buy a new one. So what we users have to be really careful about is to do a lot of research before upgrading iOS despite all the advertising, temptation of new features, incompatibility with new apps and lack of official information on how much performance will be degraded, and the inability to downgrade not being advertised anywhere by Apple. Apple could make a few small changes that would go a long way in increasing the longevity of their products. Their hardware is already quite durable, it's their software that creates planned obsolescence.
 

thermodynamic

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John.B said:
Clearly they have to start somewhere. It's not like there can only ever be one or two of Liam...

In the mean time, show me the comparable process from any other smartphone manufacturer.
No need. Apple and the rest of the tech gang often go to the same supplier, out of pure choice with no manipulation (unlike people who are forced to train their own H1B replacements or not get severance pay...)
[doublepost=1458647833][/doublepost]
The best thing Apple can do for the environment is to make products that last for a very long time.

The best thing we can do as Apple users is to buy their products as infrequently as possible, and make them last a long time.

It's not what Apple would want to hear, but it's the truth. If it leads to lower profits, so be it.
And why would they? That cuts into their ability to profit. In a for-profit, disposable society. It goes against the very concept!

For YEARS, iMacs are made so hot that they prematurely fail, have screens yellow with burn marks (even the 2009 iMac I sold had the buyer grateful I had the extended warranty because the iMac did just that within two years!) MacBook "Pro" models also get obscenely hot whereas the plasticky PC junk costing half as much manages to stay under 78C under the same load (having an identical processor, blah blah blah. ) Or a high-end i7 with an inadequate 85 Watt power supply, which was why the 2011 17" MBP ran faster than the 15" MBP despite having otherwise identical parts (the 17" battery provided enough energy and was slightly larger with heatsink to prevent throttling. But the power supply got dangerously hot, even under regular use. The 2013 glossy trash can Mac Pro "tower" (what was wrong with the decent 2010 chassis?) also got to 97C under load (Anandtech, at least back when they reported temperatures yet they no longer do, how odd...) The 2011 and 2012 iMacs I used at college generated enough ambient heat to cook a chicken in front of them..... I could go on for hours, but since then I've seen little that has truly improved the situation, making them thinner only exacerbates problems. But I'm one of the 3 people who does more than surf the web, so processing power is a need.

Apple just makes this stuff to fail prematurely while selling an appearance of being quality built. (Just don't look at LCD screens at low brightness to see uneven backlighting or keyboard lighting issues...) Or their engineers are a bunch of nitwits to have overlooked so much that's stinking obvious... especially for the outlandish prices.
 
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NT1440

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May 18, 2008
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The best thing Apple can do for the environment is to make products that last for a very long time.

The best thing we can do as Apple users is to buy their products as infrequently as possible, and make them last a long time.

It's not what Apple would want to hear, but it's the truth. If it leads to lower profits, so be it.
No, Apple needs to do what industrial designers have been calling for decades now, make products that have EVERY step of their lifecycle factored in.

That's from resource extraction to, exactly what they're doing, disassembly and reuse. The concept is called cradle-to-cradle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle-to-cradle_design

What Apple is doing is clearly in hot pursuit of this design chain. Pay very close attention when they say they are working on ways to deconstruct there silicon to reuse the elements in them for new silicon. That's the final step that Apple needs to take.

A book on the subject, where the book itself is designed in the cradle-to-cradle philosophy: http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Remaking-Way-Make-Things/dp/0865475873
 

JosephAW

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The robot must be programmed to disassemble iPhone 3 and 3GS because iPhone 4 and up are still circulating in the markets actively.

I bought a 4S recently and it works just fine. I'm shopping for a 5S as a backup to my 6. Should be able to get a good working 16gb for less than $100 soon.

To recycle a perfectly good iPhone would be like going to the Apple Store and handing them money and they hand me a plastic bag in exchange.

If Apple wants me to recycle the iPhone then hand me $150 for a 5S and then it would be worth a trip to the store, otherwise I'll sell them on the market.
 

Benjamin Frost

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No, Apple needs to do what industrial designers have been calling for decades now, make products that have EVERY step of their lifecycle factored in.

That's from resource extraction to, exactly what they're doing, disassembly and reuse. The concept is called cradle-to-cradle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle-to-cradle_design

What Apple is doing is clearly in hot pursuit of this design chain. Pay very close attention when they say they are working on ways to deconstruct there silicon to reuse the elements in them for new silicon. That's the final step that Apple needs to take.

A book on the subject, where the book itself is designed in the cradle-to-cradle philosophy: http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Remaking-Way-Make-Things/dp/0865475873
The problem is, you will never get 100% recycling or anywhere close to it for electronic devices.

Firstly, some people will simply throw them away, destroy or lose them. Secondly, even if you could achieve 100% recycling, you would still end up with loss of materials.

Apple should certainly do all in their power to recycle, but much the best thing is to make things that last as long as possible.
 
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NT1440

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May 18, 2008
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The problem is, you will never get 100% recycling or anywhere close to it for electronic devices.

Firstly, some people will simply throw them away, destroy or lose them. Secondly, even if you could achieve 100% recycling, you would still end up with loss of materials.

Apple should certainly do all in their power to recycle, but much the best thing is to make things that last as long as possible.
Yes, existing at all requires resources. But if you can reclaim and reuse 90%+ of resources in your product, well that's a hell of a place to be. If you look into the cradle-to-cradle design philosophy you'll find your concerns are already being addressed.
 

macduke

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Really? Even this goes into the political forum? I don't understand how recycling is political or controversial? It's just a good thing no matter what! It's not like the article was talking about climate change or something. Recycling is always good. Who would argue against that? I'm so confused.
 

Benjamin Frost

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Yes, existing at all requires resources. But if you can reclaim and reuse 90%+ of resources in your product, well that's a hell of a place to be. If you look into the cradle-to-cradle design philosophy you'll find your concerns are already being addressed.
I read your link.

It looks like a worthy philosophy, and probably the best thing for companies to do. In the end, it's still a panacea, I think, because one day, we will run out of rare metals and rare resources. But this is a way of delaying that day.
 

sulpfiction

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Aug 16, 2011
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All this technology and we have a camera bump on the new iPads. I'm not one to say "SJ would never do this", etc. But I do know with 100% certainty that if SJ was still around there would be no bump on the iPad, or the iPhone 6. And truthfully the bump doesn't bother me at all. But it does show me that Apple is forgetting the SJ philosophy that made Apple what it is today. And that's a scary thought to me. That little bump speaks volumes.
 

gsmornot

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Sep 29, 2014
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I wonder what the meaning behind the name "Liam" is.
The name has Irish roots. Suppose it was named with the Irish in mind since at the moment, its the least costly place to operate in so why not throw a bone to those who make life easier on your expenses.
 

producerlawson

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FieldingMellish

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Apple is among many manufacturers who depend upon planned obsolescence, leading in a hushed way to planned landfill.

Next up, Apple releasing a video showing a robot making up for inhumane treatment in countries in which Apple does business.
 
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