Apple has pledged to ‘stop mining the earth altogether’ in an unprecedented goal for a tech industry company. Apple’s 2017 Environment Responsibility Report commits the company to a goal of using only recycled sources for the rare earth minerals and other metals that go into their products. While current iPhones only contain a small proportion of recycled material, Apple aims to increase this in the long term by combining high-quality recycled metals from suppliers with metals from old Apple products.
Less than 16% of global e-waste was recycled in 2014, and consumer technologies such as smartphones rely heavily on mined minerals like tungsten and cobalt that are associated with labour abuses and conflict. Apple’s announcement may help trigger a much-needed wider shift. The company admits that it does not yet know how to achieve its goal, given the current structure of world markets, but it hopes the announcement will send a message to mining companies and prompt a pivot of focus towards recycled materials.