They are among the biggest – and most generous – backers of the renewable energy shift.
They are advertising themselves as environmentally responsible companies that source their raw materials from ethical locations and cutting the offering of products that consumers don’t use to reduce packaging-related emissions.
And they are the driver behind a global electronic waste crisis. Meet Big Tech. Last year, Apple said its iPhone 12 will sell without a charging adapter, like the latest Apple Watches, to reduce the amount of electronic waste its products generate.
“There are also over 2 billion Apple power adapters out there in the world, and that’s not counting the billions of third-party adapters. We’re removing these items from the iPhone box, which reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials,” Wired quoted Apple’s VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson.
Yet it’s not the chargers that are the big problem, according to e-waste experts. Last year, the world generated a record amount of e-waste, topping 53.6 million metric tons, E-Waste Monitor said in its latest report. This amount represented a 21-percent increase over five years. And e-waste will continue growing, the report warned. It could reach 74 million metric tons by 2030.
Recycling rates, meanwhile, are meager. Last year, they stood at less than 20 percent of the total e-waste the world generated. Unless something changes very quickly and radically, this rate is unlikely to change much in the future, either.
“We don’t have the technology to take a truck full of old iPhones, molt them down, grind them up and make new iPhones out of them. It’s flat out physically impossible,” the chief executive of repairs hub iFixit, Kyle Wiens, told CNBC’s Dain Evans recently.
“Smartphones and tablets are challenging,” according to John Shegerian, CEO of Electronic Recyclers International, who also spoke to CNBC’s Wiens.
“Many of them are no longer made with screws; they’re made with glue. Glue makes things very hard to take apart and recover materials from because it degrades the value of the commodity product itself.”
People are increasingly reliant on smartphones and other consumer electronics,