In this version of the story, Apple pocketed a cool $40 million for its efforts, and lots of this recycling was done by Liam, its just-revealed recycling robot which is capable of disassembling 1.2 million iPhones per year. Simple math shows that Apple would have had to have collected 33.3 million iPhones to recover that much gold. In other words, in this alternate reality, rather than refurbish and resell these iPhones for hundreds of dollars a piece in developing nations, Apple decided to destroy them to harvest roughly $1 worth of gold per device.More commonly, however, it was reported that Apple recycled "90 million pounds of e-waste through its recycling programs," with much of this e-waste being iPhones and other old Apple products. Of that e-waste, 2,204 pounds of it was reportedly gold, which is worth $40 million at current gold prices.This is a little closer to being correct, because the authors of these articles at least read Apple's report, which noted that "In 2015, we collected nearly 90 million pounds of e-waste through our recycling programs. That's 71 percent of the total weight of the products we sold seven years earlier."
"What they really do is cut recyclers a check and say 'Can we have credit for a million of your pounds?"
Though Apple does have its own iPhone recycling and buyback programs, it accounts for a tiny fraction of the overall e-waste in the country."Almost all of the e-waste in the United States is collected by folks like Goodwill, municipal recycling programs, or specific electronics recyclers," Wiens said. "Apple has 450 stores and a mailback program—the percentage they're actually recycling themselves compared to the overall total is pretty close to zero, maybe slightly more than zero."This isn't necessarily a bad thing—Apple is an electronics manufacturer, not an electronics recycler. And, relatively speaking, iPhones weigh basically nothing compared to CRT TVs, old servers, and computer monitors. Even the oldest iPhones still have utility around the world, whereas breaking down and smelting old TVs is probably the best thing we can still do with them. If manufacturers were required to actually recycle electronics themselves, well, Apple would have to go into the business of disassembling other manufacturers' televisions.
"The percentage they're actually recycling themselves compared to the overall total is pretty close to zero, maybe slightly more than zero."
I was wondering if the 90 million pounds offset by your recycling programs is more than your legal obligation through the various state laws requiring e-waste recycling? If so, how much more than the obligation was it? What was your legal obligation?
Do you have numbers about how many of these pounds were Apple products?
Also, do you have numbers about how many pounds of that were recycled by Apple itself as opposed to by independent and municipal e-waste facilities?
Lastly, how many pounds of e-waste has Liam recycled thus far?