How much does your Apple device cost the earth?
by Rasheeda Russell on Jun 07, 2022
We all love to buy a new Apple device. Apple has worked hard on persuading us that buying a new Apple device is something special and that its quality is worth paying a premium for. The unboxing experience of a new iPhone or MacBook is something that we are sure most of us have enjoyed.
Because Apple devices are well made, they can have a long usable life. This allows them to be re-used and repaired.
As consumers and business owners, we have all become more aware of the environmental impact of our buying decisions. In order to give you some more information when choosing to buy a new Apple device or consider refurbished we have helped answer the question:
Exactly how much does the manufacturing process of an Apple device impact the environment?
There are 4 four main categories:
- The mining of the materials for production
- The production process itself
- The transportation of parts between Apple factories and also the transport of the product to consumers
- The impact of e-waste at the end of life
Some of the major natural resources mined for the Apple devices are: Aluminum, Cobalt, Tungsten, Gold, Tin, Zinc, Copper, Iron, Nickel, Gallium, Tantalum and more. **These are all non-renewable resources.** These minerals are mined in Mongolia, China, Peru, Chile and Cerro Rico, a mountain in Bolivia.
The environmental impact of the extraction of minerals is enormous. Just some of the negative environmental consequences are water pollution, deforestation and harm to flora and fauna. The hazardous waste from the mining process goes straight into the water supply and trees are cut down to make space for mines.
According to Apple’s 2020 environmental report, Apple has tried to reduce the use of these mined materials. The company found a recycler collecting rare earth magnet manufacturing scrap, and it began harvesting the scrap to make new magnets. It also claims to be working on recycling rare earths from end of life devices, which will likely require new scientific breakthroughs to accomplish.
While this is welcome the need to mine new materials for the ever growing demand for devices will not go away.
The production process
The processing of these minerals to produce parts also generates a large amount of CO2. Apple has done some work into ensuring that the energy produced to power these mines come from sustainable sources but mining processes are incredibly energy intensive.
The device assembly stage also produces a large amount of CO2. With regard to iPhones for example, the larger the phone and screen the bigger its impact. The glass needed to be produced for the iPhone SE is much smaller than that for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The minerals, once mined, are mostly transported by a cargo ship, or by rail, to the factories that produce the parts for Apple devices. Trains are a much better form of transport than a plane. However, a cargo ship emits a large amount of Carbon. It requires about 300 million tons of very dirty fuel, **which produces almost 3% of the world's CO2 emissions.**
Once the parts have been manufactured, they need to be shipped to Foxcon factories in China. Afterwards, they are transported to Apple distribution centres and finally to Apple stores across the world. The majority of the supply of the finished product is transported by air.
The cost to recycle an Apple device at the end of its life is low. Apple is also working to recycle parts from devices which are too damaged to be easily refurbished.
If improperly disposed, the environmental impact is devastating. E-waste is more problematic than other waste because it often contains very harmful and toxic chemicals like mercury and lead. E-waste is usually transported to Africa and other developing countries. If not properly disposed of, it could leak into the water table and causes health problems for humans and animals alike.
What can I do?
Don’t buy new if you don’t need to. Consider a refurbished Macbook or refurbished iPhone the next time you need to upgrade your device. If your device is slowing down, speak to one of our Klyk tech experts. It might be possible to upgrade your current device to give it a new lease of life.
Refurbished tech or refurbishing your current device will help you reduce the CO2 impact of your business and help reduce the growing problem of e-waste.