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Apple lays out ambitions to produce fully recycled iPhones

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If you’re environmentally conscious, you may quiver at the sheer number of products churned out by manufacturers each year. Countless phones, tablets and wearables require new materials to meet mass demand – and that does catastrophic things to our planet. Well, Apple is aware of some consumer concerns and has made a bold commitment to ship products that are made of fully-recycled minerals. At some point.

The announcement has come bundled in Apple’s 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, with much less fanfare than a new iPhone reveal but appropriately timed to coincide with Earth Day.

In the report, Apple highlights the need to avoid using so-called “blood minerals” often associated with child labour and mined in areas of conflict. Such materials include cobalt, which is essential for making lithium-ion batteries, a crucial component in any smartphone. Apple has now stopped using cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but other minerals such as copper are still mined.

So when will they do this? Well, Apple doesn’t really know yet. Seemingly, this is just an ambition to do so at some point in the future. Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson told Vice News: “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it.”

It’s a big claim, but Jackson did admit that the move was at least partly to improve company image – the aim being to give Apple products a conflict-free stamp of approval. There is also hope that this will pressure the likes of Samsung, Microsoft and Huawei to follow suite with similar initiatives.

However, one of the main criticisms of Apple products is their limited lifespan. The company has said themselves that iPhones and Apple Watches are generally used for just three years – not a very long time for a product made of precious minerals.

Greenpeace praised Apple’s commitment to recycling but echoed such concerns saying it doesn’t go far enough. “While transitioning to 100% recycled materials is critical to reducing the sector’s footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair and recyclable at the end of life.”

Apple says it is encouraging more users to take advantage of their ‘renew’ recycling scheme when upgrading to a new device, though secondhand electronics are often sought-after. It’s even possible to build your own iPhone 6s from spare parts, if you know where to look…

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