Apple has recently stepped up its claims about how it intends to eventually move towards a sustainable production model for its iPhones by using recycled components.
Earlier this year, for example, Apple introduced the concept to “stop mining the earth altogether” for its iPhone production in its “Environmental Responsibility Report.” In that document, Lisa Jackson,Apple’s vice president of environment, policy, and social Initiatives; who reports directly to CEO Tim Cook, wrote Apple was “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.”
Recently, Jackson said during a TechCrunch conference that Apple had begun to lower Apple’s footprint by using low-carbon aluminum in its iPhone 8.
In October, Greenpeace commended Apple’s environmental stewardship, giving the smartphone leader an overall grade of “B-” in its “Guide to “Greener Electronics” report card. Meanwhile, competing smart phone maker Samsung received a “D-” and Huawei, which recently overtook Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, earned an “F” in the report.
Apple received most of its accolades from Greenpeace for its plans to rely on renewable energy sources for 100% of its energy needs and for its “closing the loop” strategy to use more recyclable materials in its iPhones, such as recycled tin and aluminum.
However, Apple has yet to communicate a timetable of when it hopes to begin to make iPhones with mostly recyclable parts. The company faces major hurdles before it can, if ever, reach its goals. The task is not impossible, but Apple has not yet communicated publically the real challenges it faces in order to meet its lofty goals.
100% recyclable likely to cost consumers more
Many, possibly most, consumers will gladly pay more for their favorite smartphone if they are convinced the purchase will not negatively affect the environment and offset smartphone production that is otherwise harmful to the planet. But at the same time, Apple is facing the business concern of having to pay more for the procurement of recycled parts, a cost it would likely have to pass on to consumers.
“Any near-term distribution to the existing supply chain would likely impact costs and contribute to a higher price point for consumers, which could compromise Apple's current competitive position, Brent Ladarola, an analyst and vice president, mobile and wireless communications, for Frost & Sullivan, told EBN.
Apple’s iPhone recycling plan hinges on its supplier
Apple at some point will obviously have to make a major revamp of its its supply chain to procure mostly recyclable parts -- and that could be the hardest task it faces. Regardless of the chips and components Apple may make in-house, suppliers hold the keys to Apple’s future success -- or failure -- of its initiative.
"Apple has set an ambitious and lofty goal here, but the challenge will clearly be convincing Apple's diverse set of component suppliers to adopt and adhere to these ambiguous principles,” Ladarola said.