How green is the apple? A look at their environmental responsibility report
They continue to call it the greenest headquarters on the planet, which is absolutely not the case, because as we keep noticing time and time again, what matters is not what you build, it’s is where you build it. The building has 10,500 parking spaces; It should be called Apple Parking, not Apple Park. Apple doesn’t talk about it, but says:
700 out of 10,500 is not a lot. And really, they should have built the thing where people can actually live instead of having to buses.
They have made remarkable progress in reducing the energy consumed by their products; they consume 70% less electricity than ten years ago. It probably has as much to do with Intel and its chip designs as it does anything else, but it definitely needed a big boost from customers like Apple. I look forward to my next computer not sounding like a vacuum cleaner when lots of apps are running.
But like Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet, Remarks in Bloomberg, it’s really hard to do, especially if you don’t take all the phones and computers back. Minter writes:
Apple plans to focus on recycling the 44 elements found in its products. Yet while some – aluminum, for example – are already commercially recycled, many others never will. For example, according to Apple, an iPhone 6 contains 0.01 ounces of rare earth elements (17 chemicals essential to today’s technology) in components that include the speakers and the handset’s touchscreen. . It is an insignificant volume that cannot be mined and separated in a commercially viable manner using current technology. (Apple admits its goal is ambitious at the moment.)
Apple is making great strides with aluminum. He can’t use conventional recycled aluminum because Apple’s is a very high quality alloy, but he can recycle his own phones and computers.
Today, the only way to keep aluminum at this level of quality is to keep a clean material flow, not to mix it with existing scrap aluminum, which usually happens in recycling facilities. Our challenge is to recover the aluminum from our products without degrading its quality.
When he buys virgin aluminum, he specifies that it must be made with hydroelectric power, as they do in Iceland and Quebec. However, the bauxite has yet to be mined, and it’s still a very complicated process. In his wonderful book Aluminum Upcycled, Carl Zimring concludes:
As designers create attractive products from aluminum, bauxite mines across the planet are stepping up their ore extraction at a lasting cost to people, plants, animals, the air, earth and the world. water from local areas. Upcycling, in the absence of a cap on the extraction of raw materials, does not close industrial loops so much as it fuels environmental exploitation.
© Apple / Robot disassembling the iPhone 6
But Apple certainly doesn’t make it easy to repair their computers, and while they experiment with robots that can take iPhones apart, according to Jason Koebler in Motherboard, Apple is forcing recyclers to shred all iPhones and MacBooks. Apple insists, “All equipment collected for recycling is dismantled and crushed manually and mechanically. The resulting fractions are sorted into plastics, metals and glass and sold as raw material in the manufacturing process.”
At TreeHugger, we’ve always tried to make the case that recycling is low on the list after repair and reuse. But Apple disagrees.
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, notes that recycling “should be a last option” because non-recyclable rare earth metals are completely wasted and the molten raw materials have less value and are generally of lower quality than those that come. to be extracted. Repair and reuse are much better ways to increase the value of the original mined materials.
Koebler describes how he visited a recycler and “watched workers with a crowbar and open recent MacBook Pro retinas – worth hundreds of dollars even when completely broken – to be scrapped in their pockets. basic materials. ”
Apple started a buyback program (I sold them my last iPhone) but smarter consumers than me can get a lot more money on eBay or Craigslist.
Water and trees
© Apple / use less packaging
Apple’s water consumption continues to rise; “In fiscal 2016, Apple used 630 million gallons of water, up 10% from the previous year. This increase is primarily due to the growth of our data centers, both due to increased construction and cooling requirements. But they continue to build data centers in hot climates, like Reno, Nevada and Mesa, Arizona.
Their use of virgin wood fiber is decreasing as they reduce packaging and use more recycled materials.
Here they have done a great job removing PVC, phthalates, brominated flame retardants, all of which are perfectly legal in the United States. They also conceived the need for beryllium, mercury, lead and arsenic.
The report ends with pages and pages of data on their footprint; the reductions in electricity and natural gas consumption saved are extraordinary.
It’s hard not to be really impressed with what Apple has done with its three priorities:
- Reduce our impact on climate change by using renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of our products and facilities.
- Save precious resources so that we can all prosper.
- Pioneer in the use of safer materials in our products and processes
There is this willful blindness on other issues. Claiming that Apple Park is the greenest office building in the world. There is the continuing obsession with making it harder and harder to repair even open their phones and computers.
But if only every business was so serious and so green.