Apple’s ‘closed loop’ journey: advances in recycled metals

Apple sees progress in using recycled materials in its own products. By 2025, the manufacturer plans to largely use recycled material to meet its needs for several key metals, including cobalt, which is used in batteries. In 2021, only 13 percent of the cobalt used came from recycled material, then 25 percent in 2002, and within the next two years the recycled content is expected to increase to 100 percent, as the company announced.

Apples Recycling-Roboter Daisy

Apples Recycling-Roboter Daisy

“Daisy” disassembles iPhones and aims to make recycling more efficient.

(Image: Apple)

Cobalt is often mined under highly problematic conditions in the Congo, including with child labour. In the past, Apple stopped buying from small mines to check the supply chain. Again and again there were allegations that companies – including Apple – did not fulfill their duty of care when purchasing metals from the Congo.

In addition to cobalt, Apple also wants to source the rare earths used for magnets from recycling by 2025, as well as the tin and gold used for circuit boards.

On Thursday, Apple reiterated its long-term goal of using 100 percent recycled and renewable materials in device manufacturing. Recycling robots like Daisy and Dave should help with this. However, the company still did not name a time target for this, it is only talking about “one day”. According to current information, only around 20 percent of the materials used for Apple materials come from recycled and renewable sources, and Apple already mentioned this number in 2021. There is still a long way to go before the “closed cycle” is achieved.

Apple also wants to stop using any plastics in packaging material by 2025, and the goal here seems within reach. The company is also aiming for climate neutrality by 2030, which should also include the huge supply chain.

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