Apple is taking a bold, ambitious approach towards addressing the electronic sector's massive waste problem.
In the coming years, the tech giant hopes to transition to products made with 100% recycled materials, as well as transforming its supply chain to run entirely on sustainable energy.
So-called "E-waste" is a devastating problem the world over: an estimated 60 million tons of electronic waste is buried in Earth's landfills each and every year.
This practice contaminates the surrounding soil with all manner of heavy metals - especially lead - which is catastrophic for developing countries where agriculture is still a main food source and driving economic force.
Compounding the dumping problem, mining for the heavy metals used in smartphones and tablets is a deadly line of work that frequently employs child laborers.
So, responding to the E-waste epidemic that they've been actively feeding into for the past few decades, Apple has decided to stage a massive environmental intervention. In their 2017 Progress Report, the company highlighted their emphasis on environmental responsibility and pledged to go 100% recycled/renewable in the near future.
While not offering any specific firm timeline for their 100% sustainable goal, Apple has already taken some big steps towards becoming a cleaner, more responsible company.
Apple's data centers are entirely powered by solar, wind, or hydro-electric power. Just about 96% of the company's worldwide facilities run on renewable energy, and over 99% of their packaging is already made with reprocessed and responsibly sourced materials.
In the Progress Report, Apple acknowledged how much more work needs to be done. They pledged to “one day end [their] reliance on mining,” while cautioning that such an initiative will take years to see through.
Apple VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson told Vice:
“We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it.
So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.”
Apple should be applauded for their bold plans to transition to a more responsible production cycle. But at the same time, we shouldn't lose sight of the existing issues with their products and the way they're designed.
Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook applauded Apple's 100% renewable pledge, but also aimed at their products (intentionally) short lifespans:
"While transitioning to 100 percent recycled materials is critical to reducing the [tech] sector’s footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair, and recyclable at the end of their life.”
We'll see where this new sustainable initiative takes the company in the future. But in the meantime, it'd be so great if an iPhone could last longer than a year or two (or three, at best).