‘Sounds crazy’, says Apple, but one day all its products will be built from recycled materials

Apple’s new campus – as featured in its environmental report

Updated 22 April: John Gruber interviews Lisa Jackson on The Talk Show; Facebook ‘Helping People Support Earth Day and Our Planet’; and ‘Happy Earth Day, World!’ from Google.

“Can we one day stop mining the earth altogether?”, asks the iPhone maker in its environmental responsibility report published on Thursday (20 April). “It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it. We’re moving towards a closed-loop supply chain. One day we’d like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products.”

The company’s work in this area is led by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, who reports to the company’s chief executive Tim Cook. Its environmental responsibility report poses a series of questions: can Apple power a global business “with the sun, wind, and water”; can it get 100% of its supply chain to move to 100% renewable energy; can it “one day stop mining the earth altogether”; can it use only 100% recycled and responsibly sourced paper in its packaging; [and] can it “improve on the world’s best materials”?

The report says: “That’s Apple: asking bold questions, tackling big problems, and relentlessly innovating to solve them. The approach also lies at the heart of our global environmental strategy—driving us to make not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world.” It adds: “We’re going deeper to pioneer a closed-loop supply chain, where products are made using only renewable resources or recycled material to reduce the need to mine materials from the earth.”

The company cites its line of ‘disassembly robots’, known as Liam, which recovers materials from its products. “And we’re launching projects and experiments that help us learn how to close loops. For example, we’ve melted down iPhone 6 aluminum enclosures recovered from Liam to make Mac mini computers for use in our factories, and we’re transitioning to 100% recycled tin solder on the main logic board of iPhone 6s.

“We’re also continuing our quest to make our products and processes even safer by pioneering ways to reduce and remove toxins. We again expanded our Environmental Testing Lab, where our chemists and toxicologists look for any potentially harmful substances in our products. And, through our full material disclosure programme, we’ve identified all the substances present in more than 20,000 individual components – up from 10,000 a year ago – so we can understand their effect on people’s health and the environment.

“It’s clear to us that now, more than ever, we can show the way to a better future. We’re constantly working to show what’s possible and inspire others to create a healthier environment. We’re devoted to improvement and openness, and we encourage you to join us in working to leave the world better than we found it.”