Quantcast

Ever Wonder What's Happened to the More Than 570 Million iPhones Sold Since 2007?

Business

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, only 12.5 percent of electronic waste, or e-waste, is recycled in the U.S.

Bloomberg recently dug into Apple's e-waste problem—namely the fate of the more than 570 million smartphones that have been sold since the first generation iPhone debuted in Jan. 9, 2007—and 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

It's clear that our increasingly digital world has left a shocking impact on our planet. These gadgets require a massive amount of energy to manufacture and its potentially hazardous components can have a toxic and even deadly imprint on planetary inhabitants.

With a growing number of smartphones, computers and tablets piling up in our drawers or the landfill, United Nations officials estimated that 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 this mounting e-waste catastrophe as each new product comes along. However, as Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives told Bloomberg, Apple has led the industry 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 2009’s 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 a free reuse and recycling program that 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 doesn't qualify for reuse, Apple will recycle it at no cost to the consumer.

Read page 1

Apple works with the Hong Kong-based electronics recycler Li Tong Group that follows a strict and secretive multi-step process that consists of breaking down every single element of an old phone and capturing 100 percent of the chemicals and gasses that's released during the process, Bloomberg reported.

Jackson said that the never-ending buildup of new tech gear is a global issue.

"There’s an e-waste problem in the world," Jackson told Bloomberg. "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 headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agecny, has achieved a number of green initiatives since she was tapped to take charge of Apple's environmental affairs in 2013. From banning a number of toxic chemicals from their products to overseeing the company's $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 businesses taking charge on environmental sustainability.

"The environment must also be on the business agenda," he said in 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 because climate change impacts supply chains, energy crises and overall economic stability."

Apple's solar plant in Yerington, Nevada, generates up to 20 megawatts of renewable energy for its Reno data center. As of 2014, 100 percent of its U.S. operations and 87 percent of its operations worldwide are powered by renewable energy. Photo credit: Apple

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

World’s First Vegan Supermarket Chain to Open in Portland

Leonardo DiCaprio Joins Carbon Capture Technology Company to ‘Bring About a More Sustainable Future for Our Planet’

5 Sustainable Market Trends That Unleash a World of Opportunities

Solutions Wanted: Do You Have a Solution That Will Create a Cleaner, Greener World?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less