Apple's new lab uses robots to recycle iPhones


19 Apr 2019

Apple's new lab uses robots to rip apart, recycle iPhones

As part of its global recycling and e-waste control program, Apple has opened a new Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas.

The 9,000-square-foot lab, as the Cupertino giant says, will help allow researchers to explore robotics and machine learning-based methods to disassemble and shred devices.

Plus, it will be graced by Daisy, Apple's famous recycling robot.

Here are the details.

Lab function

New lab to tackle solutions for e-waste

New lab to tackle solutions for e-waste

Announced ahead of Earth Day (April 22), Apple's new lab will focus on an innovative solution to recycle used, old devices with efficiency and recover valuable materials from them, like cobalt, copper, or aluminum.

Material recovery could ultimately allow Apple to send these elements upstream for being re-employed in the creation of new products and creating a closed loop for preventing e-waste generation.

Recycling must become important part of supply chain: Apple

"Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward," Lisa Jackson, Apple's VP of Environment and Policy, stated, noting that she hopes people trade in their devices for recycling.

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Apple's recycling efforts driven by Daisy robot

Apple's current recycling efforts are driven by a five-armed recycling robot named Daisy.

The machine, which spans 33-feet in length, can methodically disassemble any of the 15 iPhone models, from the iPhone 5 to iPhone Xs Max, at a rate of 200 units per hour.

It rips apart the devices, removing things like batteries, screws sensors, screens and leaving a shell of aluminum.


Daisy disassembling recovers parts for reuse

The parts carefully extracted by Daisy, which can handle 1.2 million devices per year, allows Apple to reuse them in the supply chain.

For instance, the recovered batteries are sent upstream for the extraction of cobalt which is then used for new batteries.

Even the tin used in the logic boards of 11 of Apple products is 100% recycled, the company says.


Now, Apple is boosting its recycling efforts

Apple has received over a million devices and diverted 48,000 metric tons of e-waste from landfills in 2018.

But now, with the new Daisy-backed facility, the company has decided to quadruple the number of locations where old iPhones can be sent for disassembling/recycling.

Customers in the US can return devices to Best Buy stores, while those in the Netherlands can go to KPN retailers.

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