Published 10 months ago.
About a 6 minute read.
Accelerated timeline for cobalt and other elements paves new path for key recycled metals in batteries, magnets and circuit boards.
Apple has announced a major acceleration of its work
to expand recycled materials across its products — including new 2025 targets to
use 100 percent recycled cobalt in all Apple-designed batteries; all magnets
in Apple devices will be composed of entirely recycled rare earth elements; and
all Apple-designed printed circuit boards will use 100 percent recycled tin
soldering and 100 percent recycled gold plating.
In 2022, the company significantly expanded its use of key recycled metals and
now sources over two-thirds of all aluminum nearly three-quarters of all
rare earth metals, and more than 95 percent of all tungsten in Apple
products from 100 percent recycled material.
“Our ambition to one day use 100 percent recycled and renewable materials in our
products works hand in hand with our goal to achieve carbon-neutral products by
said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.
“We’re working toward both goals with urgency and advancing innovation across
our entire industry in the process.”
Cobalt is a critical material in most consumer electronics batteries, but the
mining of it is rife with human rights abuses including child
Apple-designed batteries found in iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch,
MacBook and many other products represent a significant majority of the
Apple’s cobalt use; the company’s significant expansion of its use of 100
percent certified recycled cobalt over the past three years all but eliminates
its need for unearthing new cobalt and makes it possible to include in all
Apple-designed batteries by 2025. In 2022, a quarter of all cobalt found in
Apple products came from recycled material, up from 13 percent the previous
Apple’s use of 100 percent certified recycled rare earth elements has also
expanded in the last year — going from 45 percent in 2021 to 73 percent in 2022.
Since first introducing recycled rare earths in the Taptic Engine of the
iPhone 11, Apple has expanded its use of the materials across its devices —
including in all magnets found in the latest iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook
and Mac models. As magnets are by far Apple’s largest use of rare earths, the
new 2025 target means nearly all rare earths in Apple products will soon be 100
As part of the accelerated new timeline, all Apple-designed printed circuit
boards will use 100 percent certified recycled gold plating by 2025. This
includes rigid boards, such as the main logic board; and flexible boards, such
as those connecting to the cameras or buttons in iPhone. Since pioneering an
exclusively recycled supply chain for gold in the plating of the main logic
board for iPhone 13, Apple has extended the material’s use in additional
components and products — including the wire of all cameras in the iPhone 14
lineup; and printed circuit boards of iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, MacBook
Pro, Mac mini and HomePod. Apple is also working to encourage broader
adoption of recycled gold for non-custom components across the electronics
By 2025, the company will use 100 percent certified recycled tin soldering
on all Apple-designed printed rigid and flexible circuit boards. In recent
years, Apple’s use of recycled tin has expanded to the solder of many flexible
printed circuit boards across Apple products, with 38 percent of all tin used
last year coming from recycled sources. The application of recycled tin across
even more components is underway, and the company is engaging more suppliers in
As Apple reduces its reliance on newly mined minerals, it is also pursuing ways
to directly support communities whose livelihoods depend on mining. The company
is partnering with experts such as the Fund for Global Human
Rights to provide support for frontline human
rights and environmental defenders, including in the African Great Lakes
region; as well as vocational education programs that enable members of local
communities moving away from mining to build skills and pursue new
Apple continues to broaden its efforts to sources primary minerals responsibly. In the transition to recycled and renewable content, it has prioritized 14
materials based on environmental, human rights and supply impacts that together
account for nearly 90 percent of the material shipped in Apple products:
aluminum, cobalt, copper, glass, gold, lithium, paper, plastics, rare earth
elements, steel, tantalum, tin, tungsten and zinc.
Apple was the first electronics company to publish a list of cobalt and lithium
refiners in its battery supply chain, with cobalt in 2016 and lithium in 2020.
In 2017, the company mapped its supply chain for rare earths. And since 2015,
every identified smelter and refiner for the four main conflict
— tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold — has participated in independent,
In 2022, about 20 percent of all material shipped in Apple products came from
recycled or renewable sources. This includes the first use of recycled copper
foil in the main logic board of iPad (10th generation), the introduction of
certified recycled steel in the battery tray of MacBook Air with the M2 chip,
100 percent recycled tungsten in the latest Apple Watch lineup; and the aluminum
enclosures found in many Apple products, made with a 100 percent recycled
aluminum alloy designed by Apple.
Apple has also announced progress on its 2025 commitment to eliminate plastics
from its packaging through the development of fiber alternatives for components
such as screen films, wraps and foam cushioning. To address the remaining 4
percent plastic in its packaging footprint, Apple is working to replace labels,
lamination and other small uses. In the last year, Apple developed a custom
printer to introduce digital printing directly onto the boxes of iPhone 14 and
iPhone 14 Pro, eliminating the need for most labels. And a new overprint varnish
found in iPad Air, iPad Pro and Apple Watch Series 8 packaging replaces the
polypropylene plastic lamination found on boxes and packaging components — the
company says this innovation has helped avoid over 1,100 metric tons of plastic
and over 2,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Apple’s continues to work to pioneer advancements in end-of-life disassembly and
recycling. Through extensive efforts including partnerships with leading
research institutions and the Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas, Apple
is developing ways to give materials in its products new life, and helping
inform design decisions that support disassembly and recovery.
The company’s iPhone disassembly robot,
separates batteries from other components; and enables specialty recyclers to
recover cobalt, lithium and rare earth elements — which are largely lost through
traditional electronics-recycling processes. Apple estimates that more than
11,000 kilograms of cobalt have been recovered from batteries extracted by Daisy
and then returned to the secondary market since 2019.
Daisy is just one example of how Apple’s innovations in recycling and
disassembly can drive industrywide change. The company’s
robot, now deployed with a recycling partner in China, helps further
recovery of rare earth elements by disassembling Taptic Engines.
Apple has also begun deploying overhead projector-based augmented reality (AR)
systems to recycling partners, which guides the disassembly of devices including
MacBook and iPad by projecting video imagery directly onto a work surface. The
company publishes Apple Recycler Guides for global recyclers to maximize
efficiency of material recovery while safeguarding human health and safety. As
recycled and renewable materials can contribute to lowering each product’s
carbon footprint, enhanced recovery is also bringing Apple closer to its goal to
be carbon neutral across its entire supply chain and the life cycle of every
product by 2030.
Published Apr 17, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST