Apple Inc on Monday unveiled an interesting research and development system called Liam that dismantles customers’ old iPhones to recover materials that can be recycled.
The robotic system removes the valuable materials from iPhone parts so their components can be more easily sorted and reused in other products. The Cupertino giant has often been criticized for its sleek and seamless designs that are assembled so tightly that their components can be rather difficult to remove, refurbish, and reuse. The move is an attempt to address this issue.
Some of the components dissembled include aluminium, copper, tin, cobalt, gold, silver, platinum and tungsten. For instance, Tungsten is repurposed in precision cutting tools.
The tool, which has been under development for almost three years now, will focus on the iPhone 6 initially. The company apparently plans to alter and expand the system to manage different devices and recover more resources, according to reports.
Last month, Liam began operation at full capacity and can strip one iPhone 6 every 11 seconds to recover valuable materials, according to the company. At this rate, the robotic tool can only manage a few million phones per year, a small fragment of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.
According to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, the robotic system was developed as part of the company’s larger initiative to be more environmentally friendly.
The robotic system consists of 29 robotic modules on a single site near its headquarters in Cupertino, California. Also, another Liam robotic system is being installed in Europe, the Cupertino, California company said.
The company teams up with third-party recycling firms to manage its e-waste, but despite that Jackson believes there is room for improvement.
While the company’s design approach will not be altered, Jackson said Apple is working towards finding better ways to deconstruct its devices and recover reusable materials. The new system helps put more recycled materials back in the global supply chain.
Jackson said the company intends to reuse more materials in future products as the research on large-scale recycling continues.
Currently, our world is engulfed with discarded electronic equipment, with the United States and China accounting for almost a third of it. According to an April 2015 United Nations University report, less than a sixth of global e-waste is properly recycled or made available for reuse.
Apple did not reveal how many of its devices are brought in for recycling each year. Under its current program, customers will be offered store credit for recycling certain devices and will recycle old products free of cost.