A couple of months ago, Apple introduced us to the very impressive ‘Liam’, a 29 armed disassembly robot that can disassemble an iPhone 6 in 11 seconds. Purely from the technical perspective, this is hugely impressive and as the purpose of the robot is to recycle waste iPhones, it’s definitely a positive step for the company. However, Apple produced 230 million iPhones last year, while Liam’s 11 second disassembly time means that 1 million iPhones per year are disassembled. Obviously there is a huge gulf in these figures and once this was released to the press this year, many were quick to criticise the disparity between the two numbers, but at least they’re heading in the right direction.
In addition to this, Apple have taken steps to ensure that their factories in China are reducing their carbon footprint (most of Apple’s environmental harm is coming from manufacturing, over 70% of it). This is being done through using solar power, because in China, where most of the iPhones are made, coal is still the most common energy source. The previously quite controversial company Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturer has committed to using solar power by 2018 to power it’s factory.
On the other hand, the perceived notion that there is a ‘planned obsolescence’ built in to Apple’s products, as well as the relatively short 12 month life cycle of the iPhone, means that Apple will always draw fire from it’s critics for not truly having a sustainable model. This is only part of the story, and due to the high profile nature of the company, the attention of the population will always be drawn to Apple and what their environmental policy is. Apple have recycling programs in 99% of the countries that the iPhone sells in, and they also saved 500 million pounds of electronics from land fills since 2008.
All in all, Apple are doing a lot to reduce the impact that there company is having on the environment, but there is still so much to do and so much that they can do.