Apple plans to use robots to dismantle iPhones to recycle and reuse minerals to change the way electronics are recycled, Reuters reported. However, the growing demand for electronics around the world means manufacturers still need to mine new mines. Apple says it wants to be a “closed-loop” manufacturer that doesn’t rely on the mining industry, and robots are part of the plan. Some industry analysts say Apple’s bold goals are unlikely to be achieved.
In an obscure warehouse outside Austin, Texas, Apple’s Daisy robot was used to disassemble the iPhone to extract and recycle 14 minerals, including lithium. Apple already uses recyclable aluminum, tin, cobalt and rare earths in some of its products, and plans to use more recyclable minerals in the coming years.
Daisy robots are less than 20 yards long and take four steps to remove the battery from the iPhone before popping out screws and modules, including a haptic feedback monitor for generating phone vibrations. The components are then sent to the recycler to refine the minerals. Daisy can disassemble 200 iPhones per hour. Apple says a total of 1 million iPhones were handled by austin’s robots in 2017.
Lisa Jackson, the company’s director of environmental, policy and social activities, said Apple chose the iPhone as the first product to be dismantled by Daisy because of its popularity.
Apple is also considering sharing Daisy technology with other companies, including electric car makers. But there are also questions about Daisy’s use, such as the tech world’s many people think she is more of an Apple PR stunt.
“They think they can recycle all the minerals, but it’s almost impossible,” said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit. iFixit is a company that works to repair, not discard, iPhones and other electronics.
This may also explain why mining companies have no fear.
“Apple is in a strong position because they have the ability,” said Tom Butler, chairman of the International Committee on Mining and Metals, an industry trade group. “
More mining executives also point out that the growing popularity of electric vehicles means that demand for newly mined minerals will continue to grow, which Apple does not deny.
“We’re not competing with mining companies, ” says Apple’s Lisa Jackson. ” “