Apple and the environment: How long are iPhones used? Plus a ton of gold and a recycling robot

Sure, the environmentally conscious Apple customer might be pleased to know that the company’s data centers are powered 100 percent by renewable energy, and that for Apple Stores, that number is 97 percent. But there are some other notable tidbits from the company’s environmental report this year — which coincides with an Earth Day campaign — including how long Apple expects its products to last, and a pot of gold at the end of the iPhone rainbow. Also: a robot.

When you plunk down hundreds of dollars for that rose-colored iPhone or a couple of thousand for that Mac, how long do you expect to use them? According to Apple’s environmental FAQ, it expects “first owners” to keep their iPhones and Apple Watches for three years, and Macs and Apple TVs for four years.

The Guardian points out that the timetable aligns with Apple’s release of software updates for its mobile devices, but that the company usually supports its computers with updates for much longer.

All this may not matter to those who upgrade to a new iPhone every year, but it might be helpful information for those of us who don’t have unlimited gadget budgets.

Now for that pot of gold, which literally weighs more than a ton. Apple’s environmental report (PDF), released Thursday, says the company recovered 2,204 pounds of gold from recycled iPhones, iPads and Macs last year. CNNMoney did the math: That’s $40 million worth of gold.

Apple notes that it reuses many of the materials it extracts from recycled devices. And in case you haven’t heard, it has a line of recycling robots named Liam, which it says can take apart 1.2 million phones a year. The company has Liam prototypes in California and the Netherlands. Mashable recently took an in-depth look at how Liam works — it can disassemble an iPhone every 11 seconds.

As for what others think of Apple’s green efforts, here’s an excerpt from Greenpeace’s emailed statement: “While Apple’s increased transparency and leadership on renewable energy for its own operations should be applauded, the significant spike in emissions reported from its supply chain is causing Apple’s overall carbon emissions to increase, 11% just in the last year. Apple’s new commitment to deploy 4 GW of renewable energy by 2020 attached to its supply chain is a significant step to tackle this challenge, and one that we hope will inspire other major electronic manufacturers to follow suit.”

Greenpeace also said Apple could do better on sourcing of paper and packaging.


Photo from AFP/Getty Images


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  • Lafayette Escadrill

    I kept my Apple desk top for 7 years and would still be using it, if it hadn’t crapped out on me.

  • TrickyDickie

    Recycling robot – to get the gold…