Apple’s robot rips apart iPhones for recycling – Reuters

Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, introduces a robot named Liam that deconstructs iPhones during an event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stephan Lam

Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, introduces a robot named Liam that deconstructs iPhones throughout an event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California March 21, 2016.

Reuters/Stephan Lam

n”>Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Monday unveiled a robotic system called Liam to take apart junked iPhones and recover useful components that can easily be recycled, such as silver and tungsten.

The relocate is an attempt to handle criticism that Apple’s products, while sleek and seamless in design, are so tightly constructed that their components can easily be difficult to disassemble, refurbish and reuse.

Liam, which has actually been under improvement for nearly three years, will certainly initially concentrate on the iPhone 6. Apple plans to modify and expand the system to manage various machines and recover a lot more resources, the business said.

The system started to operate at full capacity last month and can easily take apart one iPhone 6 every 11 seconds to recover aluminum, copper, tin, tungsten, cobalt, gold and silver parts, according to Apple.

At that price and functioning uninterrupted, Liam most likely can easily manage no a lot more compared to a couple of million phones per year, a small fraction of the a lot more compared to 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.

Greenpeace welcomed Apple’s initiative as an example of exactly how the business is committed to maintaining a lot more products from land fills, yet the environmental group questioned exactly how a lot of an impact the Liam robot would certainly actually have actually on overall iPhone recycling volumes.

Independent e-waste recyclers, which manage the bulk of discarded iPhones, will certainly not have actually access to Liam.

“If it’s basic for a robot, that’s great,” said Gary Cook, senior IT analyst for Greenpeace. “yet making it simpler for a human, that will certainly be executing many of this, is section of the solution.”

Greenpeace urged Apple to build a lot more products using recycled metals, and to make its machines simpler to deconstruct. Cook said Apple has actually been an industry leader on some environmental issues, such as asking suppliers to run on renewable energy.

“A great deal of the sector has actually followed their lead due to the fact that they’ve helped adjustment the supply chain,” he said.


The globe is awash in discarded electronic equipment, along with the United States and China accounting for nearly a 3rd of it. much less compared to a sixth of global e-waste is properly recycled or earned available for reuse, according to an April 2015 United Nations University report.

Apple does not disclose exactly how lots of of its machines are turned in for recycling every year. Under its existing program, the business offers customers store credit for recycling certain machines and will certainly recycle old products for free.

The Liam system includes 29 robotic modules on a single site near Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. It will certainly focus initially on iPhone 6 phones sold in the United States, where Apple gets concerning 40 percent of its revenue.

A second Liam is being installed in Europe, Apple said.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said Liam can easily suggestions push the technology sector toward a lot more recycling, by manufacturers and consumers.

“We requirement a lot more R&D if we are going to recognize the suggestion of a circular economy in electronics,” she said.

Jackson, that was U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2009 to 2013, spoke to Reuters prior to she unveiled Liam at Apple’s spring product launch on Monday.

Some environmental activists have actually criticized Apple for not making its products a lot more green. In the ultra-thin MacBook Air, for instance, the chips, hard drive, battery and processors cannot easily be upgraded. The units usage bespoke screws or glue to hold them together.

Computers earned by Various other companies have the tendency to be a lot more modular and simpler to break apart.

Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit, an open-source repair manual for devices, said one demand iPhones, iPads and iPods are difficult to pry apart is that their batteries are glued in to the devices.

A large lot of older iPhone models are resold to consumers in China and portions of Africa, which have actually a lot more limited recycling options. Placing robots in California and Europe might not handle that problem, he said.

“It’s notable that they (Apple) are talking concerning this, yet unless you grab among these robots inside every recycler in the world, it’s not going to have actually an impact,” Wiens said.

“On the one hand there is this actually cool robot, and that’s great. On the Various other hand there are A great deal of realities on the ground that will certainly make this not actually have actually an impact,” he added.

Jackson said Apple’s design approach will certainly not change, yet the business is functioning on much better methods to disassemble its machines and recover reusable materials.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Extra reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tiffany Wu)

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