back to article Apple pulled 2,204lbs of gold out of old tech gear

Apple says its recycling efforts have recovered thousands of pounds of rare metals from discarded electronics. The Cupertino slinger of iStuff said in its annual Environmental Responsibility Report [PDF] that it pays about 160 recyclers worldwide to recover and reuse huge stocks of gold, silver and other metals from trashed …

  1. Mitoo Bobsworth

    Love 'em or hate 'em...

    "...the design and assembly of Apple hardware contributes to the waste problem by making the devices difficult to repair and forcing customers to toss out their old phones and tablets when they break or are replaced."

    Which is how consumer commerce works, and (for better or worse) Apple are really good at it. You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      The 6 and 6S have had pretty good repairability scores - scoring a 7 out of 10, which is the same as the Nexus 5X & 6, OnePlus 2, and even the first generation Fairphone - which is supposedly designed for easy part swapping. They did much better than the Galaxy S6's 4 and the S7's 3. Unlikely Samsung who started high (with past models scoring as well as 8) and got worse, Apple has been improving over time - they had several models that scored a 6, and the original iPhone scored only 2.

      The only models listed in iFixit's site released in the past couple years that beat a 7 were the LG G4 scoring 8, and the Fairphone 2, which scored a 10.

      https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        It's difficult to be sure if iFixit's benchmarks have stayed the same over the years. What was once a 2 might now be a 5.

        The repairability of devices is going down, for example changing the battery requires you to open the thing up and deal with glue whereas before you just clipped them on the back or had an accessible battery compartment. RAM and storage upgrades might be impossible on some laptops.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @Dan 55 - glued in batteries

          Apple stopped gluing down the batteries with the iPhone 5 back in 2012, there is now an adhesive strip with a pull tab but it is easily removed, and replacement strips can be bought for a buck or two (they can't be re-used) Samsung seems to have picked up Apple's former glue habit in recent models, which is probably one of the big reasons their score has dropped in the last couple revs.

          As for whether the benchmarks have stayed the same or not, who knows. Perhaps they have changed since the original iPhone was rated in 2007, but it is reasonable to expect the criteria for phones reviewed within a year or two of each other should be close enough that they are directly comparable.

          1. Doctor_Wibble
            Trollface

            Re: @Dan 55 - glued in batteries

            > an adhesive strip with a pull tab but it is easily removed, and replacement strips can be bought for a buck or two

            Sounds like special stuff so it's either double-sided or plan sponge tape, so for the double-sided I can make a profit of £70.00 per £2.99 roll by selling it in short strips, or if it's the posh sponge stuff that profit drops to a paltry £65 per roll. I'm in the wrong business here. Maybe I should call Milord Suralan?

            Like the old blackmail joke "they definitely saw you coming".

            1. DougS Silver badge

              @Doctor Wibble

              And your point is? Anything you need one of that costs almost nothing is going to sell at a high margin, so if you want to buy the strips in bulk (they are available on eBay already in bulk, so you will have someone to buy from) and sell them individually and reap big profits, be my guest. I think most of us have something better to do than individually shipping $2 items, and the demand for them probably isn't that high as all the "replace your battery" kits you can buy include everything you will need including the replacement strip.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        Just replacing a battery should be simple. But that's next to impossible on most phones now.

        It's all about making simple repairs beyond the expertise of most people.

        My electric toothbrush was supposed to be thrown away when the battery stopped holding charge. But I desoldered the old one and replaced it. So it's now in its 8th year instead of being buried in the ground about 3 years ago.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

          Just replacing a battery should be simple. But that's next to impossible on most phones now.

          Or a 5 minute job like it is on an iPhone.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      "You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix."

      It's a fine line to tread.

      Mercedes Benz once decided that they weren't selling enough cars because the ones they'd already sold were never breaking or wearing out. So they wound back on the quality, over did it and ended up with a bad reputation all of a sudden and not selling enough cars.

      What's different about Apple is that iPhones "working" doesn't seem to have been necessary to make them sell in large numbers (Antennagate, etc, though they seem to have been doing a better job of it in recent years). Though it does make one wonder just how disfunctional an iPhone could be before people stop buying them!

      1. PSPS

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        "working" or not... "Antennagate" or not... it is the stupid consumers who make it all possible, that's why!

      2. TomG

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        They would have to be very dysfunctional. Apple Lovers bond to their Apple product is very strong.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      >You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix.

      Really? Can you support your claim in any way?

      http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/laptop-brand-ratings

      http://www.zdnet.com/article/consumer-reports-notebook-reliability-survey/

      http://www.digitaltrends.com/buying-guides/which-laptops-are-the-most-reliable/

      If Apple's business model is to sell gear at a high margin, and find ways of enticing repeat custom through making newer, lighter faster etc models, then it is of no advantage to them to make flaky kit. I'm a bit confused of why you think it might be.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        Some people have this image of Apple fanatics who will buy whatever Apple sells, so Apple could double its sales by making products that last half as long. That's nonsense. People buy Apple products because they think they get good value for money. "Flaky" kit would quite quickly destroy the brand. If I buy an expensive iPhone today, I know I will be able to use it for a very long time, or sell it at a good price after two years, or hand it down to the next family member.

        As far as the repairing goes: iPhones and iPads (and everything else) are hard to repair by amateurs, including iFixit which constantly complains. In reality, if they break you can get screens replaced or batteries replaced at an Apple Store for a lot less than the price of a new phone, and worst case you get an identical refurbished replacement for about half the price of an equivalent new device. And somehow I don't think Apple throws these phones away as long as there are bits of value inside. Many hard to repair phones can be repaired at reasonable cost and reused as "refurbished" if you send them to China.

        1. PSPS

          Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

          Typical responses of the stupid consumer:

          1."think they get good value"...

          "The 16GB models are $40.56/GB for the 6s and $46.81/GB for the 6s Plus. The 64GB models drop to $11.70 and $13.27, respectively, with the 128GB models at $6.63 and $7.41"

          - http://www.zdnet.com/article/dont-buy-a-16gb-apple-iphone-6s-4k-video-live-photos-bigger-apps-and-ludicrous-price-per-gb-make-it/

          The fools don't even realise that micro-SD cards are approaching the $0.50 per GB mark. They don't even realise they are paying between 10 to 90 times the cost of flash memory on as compared to Android users buying a micro-SD card with lifetime warranty, waterproofing and transferability to other devices like DSLRs and digicams. Your fruit company's cheapo eMMC 64GB and 128GB storage costs about at least 10 times (on a per GB basis) what it costs me to get a Samsung EVO 850 3D NAND SATA SSD for my PC rig, which costs me only about $0.60-0.70 per GB.

          2. If its easy to fix, 3rd party repairers (who are typically much nearer to a consumer) would have been able to do it at low cost. The damn fruit company uses glue and glue and solder for everything G.E.D.D.I.T?

          3. IFixit are amateurs? Then you must be Superman. They have become the pros at their job. They were the pioneers and they now supply parts for DIY enthusiasts and repair shops the world over!

          4. Fruit company charges half the price to repair an out of warranty phone! Half the price to get the same obsolete thing after 1-2 years? A re-furbished set of the same thing? That is value? For the replacement of a $5 component part called a "battery" or "button" fails?

          5. If it is durable, why do you even have to raise the subject of needing to bring it to a service centre? Cos the battery dies after 1 year? Or it loses so much of its capacity it dies at 50% level? Google to find out how many repair issues there are.

          6. If it is repairable, why do you have to send it halfway across the world for repair in China? The rest of use take 5 seconds to change a battery, add a micro-SD card or remove the screws and connectors!

      2. Captain Queeg

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        > You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix.

        >> then it is of no advantage to them to make flaky kit

        i don't think that's quite the same point, close but different enough to matter.

        Kit (of whatever flavour) that works very well for it's defined lifetime doesn't have to be easy and cheap to fix. On the other hand kit that's temperamental has to be cheap and easy to fix or the manufacturer will be dead in the water.

        The trick is, it seems to me that at that defined and point your customers have to feel they've had fair value. If they do, repeat business awaits, if not, then the sale goes elsewhere. I suppose that's why the likes of Apple spend so much time polishing the metaphoric bell - they have to justify so much more (in cash terms) depreciation over the product lifespan, so have to "con"/"add" (delete to personal taste) enough value to cover that.

    4. Tom Womack

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      If you sell aspirational stuff that lasts, then your customers are delighted that they can sell their iPhone 4S on for a hundred pounds when they buy a 6S+, and the person who gets an iPhone 4S and otherwise would have had some lowest-end Android monstrosity is also delighted. If you're lucky then the second-hand customer will get richer and start buying new.

    5. Lucasjkr

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      every iPhone i've had has been considerably more durable than the androids I've owned. Same for laptops even better, phone or computer, apple continues to provide support and updates for years after the purchase. compared to android phone vendors especially, apple is miles and miles ahead...

    6. PSPS

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      Which is what stupid consumers say to justify what stupid products they have bought...

      Which is what stupid consumers say since it is their stupidity that allowed such wasteful practices in modern commerce to exist in the first place...

      1. fruitoftheloon
        Happy

        @PSPS: Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        PSPS,

        A question for you, was I ripped off when I bought a 13 inch MBP a few weeks ago??

        I look forward to your response....

        Regards,

        Jay

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @PSPS: Love 'em or hate 'em...

          My 2010 11" MBA is still going strong!

          This device has been carried in my backpack more or less every day and has flown around the world 3 or 4 times. The MacBook kit is top drawer!

          * I expanded the SSD storage to 1TB recently which has made life a little easier.

    7. Mike Shepherd
      Meh

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      "You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix".

      As in the film The Man in the White Suit, this notion is unconvincing. When products become more durable, they cost less per year of use, so we end up buying more of them.

      1. Craig 31

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        "You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix".

        Have seen some of the crap on sale on ebay?

    8. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      I recently repaired an iPhone 5 for my neighbor by soaking it acid.*

      I did not bother with an iPhone 4 for a friend (just needs a new case, front and back both cracked) only because it's locked to a carrier we don't like, and would need to spend money on an account for 6 months to get a free unlock. Third party unlock costs $90, before anybody suggests it.

      I own two working iPhone 3GS units and one broken. All are Frankenphones. Broken one has bad battery, cracked glass, non-working backlight. Not worth fixing, though some parts may be useful (buttons) and the logic board works and in fact is unlocked from AT&T.

      ...Of course, I'm a geek and a nerd. But phones can be fixed for pay. Only question is value, like my friend's iPhone 4. My point is that "forced" may be a strong word here. There are choices, if unpalatable.

      * Actually, I disassembled it and soaked the logic board in white vinegar overnight, rinsed in water, rinsed in alcohol, blew off with compressed air, let dry a few hours, then reassembled and tested. Seeing it boot was a GLORIOUS thing. Months later the neighbor reports it still working flawlessly. Came from a drawer in my boss's desk; after water exposure he deemed it preferable to replace. Obviously it WAS a choice.

    9. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix.

      Sure you can. Bosch is a good example - all of their white goods kit is repairable, spare parts are available for everything. They do, however hold and enforce patents and registered designs on everything and this is how they ensure that they make money on repairs too. The same model works fairly well for quite a few other consumer goods manufacturers.

      In fact, if I look at what comes nowdays in the shopping basket, it is significantly more repairable than 10 years ago. Manufacturers have learned that there is a significant fraction of paying customer which will repair on environmental grounds instead of chucking stuff into the landfill and have adjusted accordingly. The only non-repairable stuff are supermarket toy/electronics ranges and for these - caveat emptor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

        I've just had a massive run-in with Bosch. Their "proffesional" range of tools DONT have spares available. I have just had to write of a Bosch "professional" tool at 2 months old because of that fact.

        Bosch, never again.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

          "I have just had to write of a Bosch "professional" tool at 2 months old because of that fact."

          Why were you attempting to repair something still inside the warranty period? Even in the Land of the Free you get at least 90 days warranty. Or are you somewhere which has no consumer protection at all?

    10. TomG

      Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

      The solution to this is to buy computers and phones that can be repaired. Never mind, I forgot this article is aimed at Apple Lovers.

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    Question:

    22m pounds of steel is a lot.

    That's an AWFUL lot of iPhones.

    So, in the global scheme of things, does this really make ANY difference, especially given the energy used to extract, refine and reuse this stuff, compared to the initial production costs of just buying more steel?

    I'm pretty sure I throw away an awful lot of metal. But anything worth anything is taken by those nice blokes in the vans who'll take anything metallic and weighty if they see it. The difference is that saving a pittance at great expense isn't worth the legwork.

    Quite how much energy etc. was used to collect, transport, dismantle, refine, heat up, re-mold and get these tiny slithers of metals back to a point where you could try and use them again?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      The goal is to keep potentially harmful materials out of landfills, especially stuff like lead and rare earths. Gold, silver and steel are harmless in a landfill, but you have to break everything down to remove the bad stuff, so you also end up with piles of harmless materials.

      So long as it is separated, you might as well recycle it - though it would be interesting to see what would happen if Apple said it had dumped 2,204 pounds of gold in the Cupertino landfill :)

      1. bazza Silver badge

        They probably just put the gold straight back into the tanks used to plate new iPhone parts. Why sell it if you're only going to buy more on the market anyway? And if the phone is designed to be easy to recycle then doing so is more cost effective.

        I remember reading about a manufacturing technology that helped recycling. Casings were made out a material with a heat triggered shape-memory; bake it a bit and the case changes shape and the whole thing simply falls to bits.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          >Why sell it if you're only going to buy more on the market anyway?

          That would make sense if their recycling plant was next door to the factory for new devices. However, if you have recovered the gold in the US, there isn't much point in shipping to China yourself.

          1. Androgynous Cow Herd

            Really?

            It is your opinion that shipping a container to China is the same cost as a ton of gold? I bet I could do it for less than half that much...a LOT less.

        2. Roger Varley

          "I remember reading about a manufacturing technology that helped recycling. Casings were made out a material with a heat triggered shape-memory; bake it a bit and the case changes shape and the whole thing simply falls to bits."

          MFI (for those of you old enough to remember them) perfected this techique decades ago, with the added bonus, that you didn't need to bake them first.

    2. ptmmac

      Cost is dropping as automation kicks in

      Apple has every incentive to improve costs on this type of recycling. If they can recycle their product better than anyone else because they have invested the time, money and effort into doing this, then everyone saves. So often in tech people only look at ego boosting improvements, when it is the incremental improvements that really make a difference in the long run. Building a junk yard that breaks down products that you are already getting back through good warranty practices gives companies a chance to build up a new cash flow chain. Many junk yards have piles of metal that it was not economical for them to sort, but which are now mined for materials when prices get higher on the spot market. Modern Junkyards have a huge conveyor belt systems which uses lasers to find a particular metal and blasts of air to push off the scrap that has been identified into the proper bin. The only manual labor is the effort to shovel or scoop the piles of old mixed metals into the system and to watch for jams or other problems with the system.

      The article above describes a robot that is going to improve the speed and cost of breaking down old iPhones. The energy used will drop over time as improvements are made to the process.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Cost is dropping as automation kicks in

        > Apple has every incentive to improve costs on this type of recycling

        It's one of the reasons manufactures use glue instead of screws. It's easier to heat a batch of devices in an oven than it is to unscrew them all.

        Apple's limited product range also aids them in recycling, as does the use of aluminium (rather than carbon- or glass-reinforced resins) in their laptops.

        Its been the intention of many territories to make end-of-product-life the responsibility of the manufacturer for around twenty years now. None of this should be surprising.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Cost is dropping as automation kicks in

        Modern Junkyards have a huge conveyor belt systems which uses lasers to find a particular metal and blasts of air to push off the scrap that has been identified into the proper bin.

        Yes, I can see that happening in whatever developing country your device has been shipped to be recycled. That's if it hasn't ended up in landfill.

    3. nematoad Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Spelling!

      "...and get these tiny slithers of metals..."

      Slivers, you mean slivers not slithers, that what snakes and other crawling things do.

      For a site that attracts devs. and other IT people I'm amazed at the poor grammar, punctuation and spelling evident here.

      If you were as careless and slipshod in writing code then how would you ever get anything done?

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Spelling!

        Picking on spelling, grammar and punctuation on the Internet is like shouting at clouds.

        Also, maybe it was an autocorrect that he missed. On a phone here, and I had to re-correct two just in that first sentence. Sorry, three; Internet wasn't capitalized. And I forgot to include "capitalization" in the rant list. Oh hey, I just started a sentence with a conjunction. VERY bad form.

      2. BurnT'offering

        Re: Spelling!

        Possibly because, unlike English, programming languages have small sets of documented rules and syntax. English has few real rules but a vast body of usage and preference which varies with time and place. And - re your grammar, punctuation and spelling pedantry, slithers for slivers is not among those classes of errors (yes, there is a noun form of slither).

        1. Vic

          Re: Spelling!

          English has few real rules

          That's not true. Try studying something like the TEFL course to see how English has defined rules of grammar.

          The trouble is, learning a formal grammar is considered old-fashioned these days, and so languages are often taught in a "conversational" style. This gets you speaking the rudiments of a language much more quickly, but means every new bit of learning is as much work as the last; everything becomes rote-learning rather than method-using.

          I've seen English taught overseas using a formal grammar. The students ended up with better language skills than a large number of natives over here...

          Vic.

      3. PNGuinn
        Flame

        "For a site that attracts devs ..."

        It USED to be the case that engineer's spelling left something to be desired, and that their grammar was somewhat stilted, largely because they knew what they wanted to say and wanted to make sure that no one misunderstood.

        I had a departmental typist who used to "correct" my grammar. She used to get most upset when I tried to explain politely that her "correction" had changed the meaning in a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) way and that I was insisting that she better change it back and retype it.

        Now we have technical "writers" who can't spell, can't write and would not know grammar if they fell over it.

        But they're cheap. Probably outsourced. May never have seen the product, let alone used it.

        Until the carp they produce comes back to bite us.

        A dev's spelling and grammar may not be perfect, and the documentation may not be in his native language, but at least he's near the coalface.

        1. TomG

          Re: "For a site that attracts devs ..."

          I saw what you did (carp).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Spelling!

        Let's be real here, misspelled English has little to do with coding accuracy.

        For those that took science rather than humanities subjects, the requirements for correct spelling are pretty much limited to the subject's esoteria/jargon being as these carry the required information much more than the framing words around them.

        I would say that the misuse of "slithers" rather than "slivers" on this forum only indicates that the word was spelt as heard rather than read. Given how close some dialects make them to homonyms and that neither "slivers" nor "slithers" are required jargon in coding you might be seen as being as pedantic as I am about "pacifically".

        On my scale of misuse, "slithers" is nowhere near as bad as "pacifically" used instead of "specifically" which I have heard on BBC news programs where correct English used to be a requirement for employment, unlike coding.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Spelling!

            My experience is that multilingual people with highly developed verbal and written language skills in multiple languages, write, by far the best code. This seemed to be true whether it was Java, C, COBOL, PASCAL, JS or whatever. Now, this relationship may be casual rather than influential, but my casual empiricism suggests that language skills are highly correlated with programming skills.

            So, for all you mono-linguists out there, suck it up and

      5. TomG

        Re: Spelling!

        I am of the opinion that many people that read the Register are not particularly technically adept. They read the comments for the humorous remarks. Therefor they are not concerned about being grammatically correct. Thanks for the laugh.

    4. d3vy Silver badge

      "22m pounds of steel is a lot.

      That's an AWFUL lot of iPhones."

      It would be if the article was about JUST phones however its not.

      Those weights include iPads and computers as well as phones.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge
        Alert

        >>"22m pounds of steel is a lot.

        >Those weights include iPads and computers as well as phones.

        Includes a couple of G5's then. That'll do it.

        Icon: Heavy

    5. herman Silver badge

      Steel foundries use scrap steel to get started. So there is a huge market for scrap. Cars are the most recycled product ever. Your new car today, may have some atoms from the original Model T in it for we know and likewise your new Android phone may some atoms from the original iPhone.

    6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Energy is not (very) relevant here

      A phone in a landfill (or any piece of modern consumer electronics) in contact with water and acids from all the organic matter which is rotting along it will start leaking a coctail of toxic stuff.

      1. Lead - this is actually the most harmless part. It is also not leached at a high rate because it is mostly in the display glass - it will take decades for it to leak from there.

      2. Rare earths

      3. Tantalum from the capacitors

      4. Organometalics from the display

      5. ...

      It has to be processed and scrapped correctly for environmental reasons. Getting anything back is an added bonus.

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    Alert

    Does the report say how much they lose?

    Gold is only about $20k per pound. Silver about $260 per pound. The other metals much less.* Plastics even less. They clearly don't break even, much less make money on their recycling program.

    * In the US, Apples 22M pounds of scrap steel would fetch about $1M.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

      They aren't doing it to make money, they are doing it to be good corporate citizens.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

        They aren't doing it to make money, they are doing it to be good corporate citizens.

        s/to be good corporate citizens/for the positive PR/

        1. DougS Silver badge

          s/to be good corporate citizens/for the positive PR/

          I wasn't aware those are different things. Name a company that does things solely to be a "good corporate citizen" but not for the positive PR impact on their brand image.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: s/to be good corporate citizens/for the positive PR/

            I wasn't aware those are different things.

            Ugh. Don't get me wrong, I believe you could see things that way.

            But... people assuming being a good corporate citizen is the same as doing something solely for the PR value... says a lot of negative things about our society's expectations these days. :(

            Specifically ironic, because the starting concept of corporations was for them to do (actual) public good. Not to do "PR" about their actions. ;)

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

          If they wanted to be good corporate citizens they'd make the damn things repairable in the first place.

          Oddly enough this passion for Sir Jony's juice happened on Cook's watch. Cook probably couldn't rein him in.

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

      In the US, Apples 22M pounds of scrap steel would fetch about $1M.

      The more interesting questions have been left unanswered:

      • how does that price compare with the cost of the same basket of materials when bought fresh from the end of the mining and refining chain?
      • how does the amount of energy used for recycling that basket of materials compare with the energy needed to mine and refine it?

      Both questions need answers before even starting to consider whether Apple's recycling is either useful or sensible.

      1. TomG

        Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

        Since the consumer (you, the Apple product purchaser) is the one paying the cost by purchasing the Apple product you are the one that makes the decision as to whether it is useful or sensible.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

      Gold is certainly not $10 a pound, more like $1,245 at current spot price, so that's $39m

      I smell a tax loophole somewhere here.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @AC - gold is not $1245 either

        That's the per ounce price, multiply by 16 to get the per pound price. It does end up at around $40 million though, whats your point? Do you have any idea how many iPhones you have to recycle to get that much gold? Neither do I, but it is a lot, so if it costs more than a buck or two to process (which I'm sure it does) there goes all your "profit" from that ton of gold.

        1. Sooty

          Re: @AC - gold is not $1245 either

          There used to be more pure gold per pound of mobile phones than per pound of gold ore. That's why there were loads of companies recycling them 10 years ago.

          As technology has improved, and contacts became smaller, the amount of gold used in phones has gone down but it's still probably worth it to recycle.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

      The recycling was already paid for by the customer in the original price of the phone... much like Bose overcharges to cover for their liberal return policy.

  4. Richard Tobin

    Odd unit conversion

    All but one of the numbers appear to have been converted from metric tonnes to pounds, but with the conversion factor (2204.6+) rounded down to the nearest integer:

    2,204 pounds of gold = 1 x 2204

    6,612 pounds of silver = 3 x 2204

    44,080 pounds of lead = 20 x 2204

    23,101,000 pounds of steel = ???

    189,544 pounds of cobalt = 86 x 2204

    13,422,360 pounds of plastics = 6090 x 2204

    1. Screwed
      Boffin

      Re: Odd unit conversion

      Isn't it conventional to measure gold in Troy measures (with a troy pound apparently being 373.24 g, and there being twelve ounces to the pound)? And bulk measurement, as Richard Tobin posted, in metric tonnes?

      Thicknesses of iPhones, and their weights, are very often primarily in millimetres and grams. Doesn't it seem sensible to remain in the same unit scales when they are recycled?

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Odd unit conversion

      Tonne is already metric, so you don't need to preface it with "metric".

      Sorry, pet peeve. Carry on!

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Odd unit conversion

      @Richard Tobin

      Well spotted. Fantastic example of attentive numeracy. Kudos to you.

      Therefore there are some serious Significant Figures mistakes in the data.

      "86 tonnes" of cobalt would actually be 'about 190,000 pounds'.

      189,544 pounds.of cobalt would require precisely 85.9757 tonnes.

      Which is unlikely. Given the context.

  5. Michael Hoffmann
    Coat

    Memorial...

    Are 2204 lbs of gold enough for a life-size statue of Steve Jobs on Infinity Loop? Holding an iThing in one hand and with the other pointing at... oh, I dunno, the main Foxconn plant?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Memorial...

      Since people can float they're less dense than water, and gold is about 19.5x denser than water. Since Jobs was pretty skinny, we'll assume he was just barely capable of floating and therefore gold would be 20x denser than him. If we assume he weighed 160 pounds, we'd need 3200 lbs of gold, or another five months worth.

      Plus several round the clock guards, as the statue would be worth around $60 million!

      1. Timbo
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Memorial...

        "Plus several round the clock guards, as the statue would be worth around $60 million!"

        Raw materials "worth" maybe...but get Damien Hirst to design it, Banksy to paint it, Tracey Emin to add some decorative features and Ai Weiwei to give it his approval and we might be talking a whole lot more...

        Do it right and you can stop selling idevices and instead sell replica SJ "statuettes"...you could even approach A.M.P.A.S and sponsor the Oscars by providing "Steves" instead...in fact sponsor EVERY major awards ceremony for "luvvies" and they can all have "Steves"... :)

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Memorial...

          "Raw materials "worth" maybe...but get Damien Hirst to design it, Banksy to paint it, Tracey Emin to add some decorative features and Ai Weiwei to give it his approval and we might be talking a whole lot more..."

          Three of the four you mention would reduce the value, as far as I'm concerned...

        2. PNGuinn
          Trollface

          Re: Memorial...

          ""Steves""

          "Stevies" shirley?

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Memorial...

        "Plus several round the clock guards, as the statue would be worth around $60 million!"

        You could almost buy a new iPhone for that.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Memorial...

          Unless you dig up Michelangelo and have him sculpt it, there isn't anyone who will add much extra to value something that has a melt value of $60 million.

          Think of it this way, if you had any of those guys do it in bronze, would it be worth $10 million? If so, you just increased the value of the gold one a whopping 16% :)

      3. PNGuinn
        Go

        Re: Memorial...

        ... Or make it out of the copper or lead ...

        Oops no - P**ey magnet.

        Better use all that recycled plastic and hot melt glue instead.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Memorial...

        "Since people can float they're less dense than water"

        Actually, people don't generally float due. It's the air in the lungs. Try floating on your back next time you're in the pool and breath out as much as you can. Likewise dead bodies sink, especially if that start off floating on their back so the air can escape. As they decompose and/or the remain of the digestive system finishes off what it was doing, gas is generated and they float back up, only to eventually sink again.

  6. grumpyoldeyore

    44,080 pounds of lead

    Wasn't the electronics manufacturing world lead free by 2006 ? A year before the iPhone?

    Serious question as it is over 20 years since I've been close to HW implementation.

    1. Tac Eht Xilef

      Re: 44,080 pounds of lead

      ROHS doesn't completely disallow lead, it just sets a maximum allowable limit (1000ppm / 0.1%, by weight). And there's a few allowable exemptions e.g. ceramic components, CRTs, high-temp solders, etc.

      The closest I can find to a figure for lead in iPhones is a Greenpeace report which examined the original iPhone, stating "lead and chromium were detected in a small proportion of samples and at relatively low concentrations", and "lead was found in four of the components/materials, at concentrations ranging from 10 to 80 ppm".

      Without toting up to the total recyclables, thowing in an unknown chunk for non-recyclables, and figuring out the lead %, it's hard to tell - but at first glance Apple's numbers don't look terribly out of place.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: 44,080 pounds of lead

        Be interested in knowing the relationship between the ROHS permitted levels and EU limits on the use of lead in consumer electronics, given how many manufacturers have ceased using lead solders in EU products.

  7. John Tserkezis

    Recycling: My big fat hairy arse.

    This is for profit making and nothing else. The fact they get some "good" PR out of it is merely a side attraction.

    They get the phones for free, the resulting material minus the extraction process costs, equals profit.

    Also, beware of recycled plastics. There's a reason they're not widely used, the quality of recycled plastic is by far less, and less strong than the native first-use raw material. So you're limited in where you can use it.

    Saving the earth my arse. Unless of course you count the money you made in the process...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Recycling: My big fat hairy arse.

      You obviously have no idea how expensive it is to do this. If companies could make a profit recycling their returned gear, they'd all be doing it.

    2. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

      Re: Recycling: My big fat hairy arse.

      Not just that. Destroying the phone has two VERY useful advantages for Apple. It keeps them off the second hand market, so they don't compete with new ones, AND those phones that do reach the second hand market are worth a lot more, so the seller is happier and the price differential with new ones is a lot less than it would be.

    3. PNGuinn

      Re: Recycling: My big fat hairy arse.

      Beware of recycled steel too.

      Most scrap steel contains a significant amount of other muck - eg paint and plastic.

      The resulting "recycled" steel is likely to contain "inclusions" and voids which both reduce its strength and increase the risk of corrosion.

      Quite a few manufacturers have come unstuck in the past using it inappropriately.

  8. Herby Silver badge

    Just for the record...

    Cupertino doesn't have a landfill. It takes its trash elsewhere. Most likely to the San Jose landfill.

  9. Patras

    Cost

    Possibly that the cost of recycling is included in the purchase price.

  10. Pseudonymous Diehard

    Cool

    So their recycling program means they will pay me for the valuable materials in my old phone right?

    Arf!

    Therein is the problem with recycling.

    Eco Concious Consumer pays premium for product (because it contains recycled material).

    Consumer uses product for its estimated average lifespan.

    Product breaks.

    User puts product into recycling trash.

    Recycling trash service paid for out of municipal taxes. Recycling is expensive apparently so it adds a lot.

    Apple should push their recycling tech down the chain to local municipalities and should buy the recycled materials from them (at a mutually beneficial rate).

    That way municipal levys for recycling are taken away fro Joe Schmoe so his tax goes down. Apple contributes something useful to society in lieu of the tax it dodges and we get to keep the environment clean.

    Am I right?

    1. TomG

      Re: Cool

      Joe Schmoe pays less in taxes but more for an Apple phone.

  11. macjules Silver badge

    And Copper?

    Just thinking about how much copper is the the famous 'Rose Gold' iPhones ...

  12. d3vy Silver badge

    Can we have this in some sensible measurements? either Kilos or Jubs but lets try to leave imperial measurements back in the last century where they belong.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Whales (as a measure of volume)?

      1. Vic

        Whales (as a measure of volume)?

        That's problematic, because the homonym Wales is used as a measure of area (albeit usually with the "nano-" prefix, but that's just context).

        Vic.

  13. moiety

    Lithium?

  14. Snowy

    Question

    How much did go to landfill?, I do not think they managed to recycle everything.

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Gold, yummy. Plastics, not so much.

    They'll need to cash in some of those 2,204 pounds of gold to fund the disposal of the 13,422,360 pounds of plastics.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Gold, yummy. Plastics, not so much.

      "disposal of the 13,422,360 pounds of plastics."

      It depends on the type of plastic and if they are able to economically sort it. Some plastics just need to be chipped up and dropped back in the hopper for warming up and re-injecting into the moulds. The only issue is the colour. You don;t really want to mix different colours unless it's a specific blend for a specific colour you are making.

  16. Slx

    I'm of the opinion that companies should be taxed based on making landfill destined junk. Apple to be fair to them are a high end brand and they do push towards at least thinking about these things a bit.

    I'm horrified at the way major appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, fridges etc are now being produced by very cheap manufacturers at unrealistic prices. That means you're getting appliances that are badly made and disposed of after a couple of years. Well made and old appliances often last 14+ years.

    That's really having a deep impact on the local environment and on the environment where those machines are in reality made (cheap parts made in far flung places).

    I think the appliances need to be ID tagged and those IDs linked to tax or import levies on their manufacturer.

    Ultimately all this is about it taking high cost low emission, high wage manufacturers and turning them into near 19th century standards of pollution and employment law in another country far away and out of sight.

    There's no such thing as a cheap appliance. The cost is going somewhere.

    I'm fed up with the bashing of Apple on these things though. Yes its a huge brand but no it's not by a long shot the most unetgidal or environmentally damaging. Look around you at all the electronic, electrical and packaging waste you're generating for absolutely no reason. It mostly doesn't even improve your lifestyle.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No mention

    No mention of recovering the Lizard People's mind-controlling "Jobsinian" I see.

    They keep THAT secret.

    Ahah!

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