Apple logo. (Photo: REUTERS)
Apple logo. (Photo: REUTERS)

Apple embarks on a new green path with latest iPhones

  • Taptic Engine is the phonemaker’s technology that provides tactile sensations in the form of vibrations to users of devices such as Apple Watch, iPhones and iPads
  • Rare earth metals are used in rechargeable batteries for products such as computers, monitors, televisions, electric and hybrid cars

In a first-of-its-kind eco-friendly measure for any smartphone maker, California-based Apple is using 100% recycled rare earths in its Taptic Engine for its latest iPhone 11 series.

Taptic Engine is the phonemaker’s technology that provides tactile sensations in the form of vibrations to users of devices such as Apple Watch, iPhones and iPads. It accounts for a quarter of the total rare earth elements used in the iPhone.

“This is the first time any recycled rare earth materials have been used in any smartphone," Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Product Marketing, said.

“What we’re doing for the environment starts at the very beginning and it’s what we are thinking about when we’re designing the phone," Joswiak said.

Rare earth metals are used in rechargeable batteries for products such as computers, monitors, televisions, electric and hybrid cars, superconductors, military equipment, etc.

By using more recycled material, Apple is avoiding excessive mining from the earth. All packaging for new products is also made with recyclable, majority-fiber materials.

Earlier this month, Apple launched the newest iPhone 11 starting at 64,900 and also new gaming and content streaming subscription services at aggressive monthly tariffs. Apple also launched iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the first devices it has called ‘Pro’, at 99,900 and 109,900, respectively.

“We’re the only ones in the world doing this work around rare earths in smartphones and it shouldn’t be that way," Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said.

What is interesting is that the phonemaker’s green initiatives come in the midst of trade tensions between US and China.

In fact, China, which has the largest reserves of rare earths, had supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017, according to a Reuters report dated 28 June.

To be sure, so far, the US government has exempted rare earths from tariffs on Chinese goods.

Moreover, the US Commerce Department earlier in June recommended the country take urgent steps to boost domestic rare earth productions, the Reuters report had said.

Apple’s recent announcement also comes after a series of measures towards recycling. Last year the company said that it had successfully integrated 100% recycled aluminum into MacBook Air. In fact, the enclosures for iPad and Apple Watch will be made with 100% recycled aluminum.

In the past two years, Apple has introduced over 100 components with recycled plastic content.

It is also integrating more recycled tin into its new products, including 100% recycled tin in the solder of the main logic board and select power adapters for iPhone and the main logic board for iPad.

Even in India, in 2017, Apple’s final assembly manufacturer Wistron reached 100% waste diversion rate in their first year of its operation. The phonemaker has also urged its manufacturers of newly announced products to transition into using 100% renewable energy to power production.

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