Apple Finds $40M in Gold in Used iPhones, Computers

By on April 21, 2016 in ArticlesHow Much Does

Some people might not see the value in an old or used iPhone or MacBook, but Apple's enhanced recycling program begs to differ – to the tune of nearly $40 million.

Apple Inc., the American multinational tech company worth hundreds of billions, is making some extra returns while working hard to put the spotlight on recycling the materials found within its products.

One such take-back initiative in full swing at Apple is the recycling of trashed iPhones and computers. With many valuable materials still of use within a junked smartphone, tablet, or notebook, such recycling programs are proving lucrative to both the environment and Apple.

Just last week, Apple put out their annual environmental report for 2015. The report says that not only does 93% of the company's energy come from renewable resources, but that it also recovered 2,204 pounds of gold.

In an effort to expedite recycling efforts, the company is using a robotic system by the name of Liam to review old iPhones and collect any valuable materials that can be reused. Materials collected from old phones and computers have included silver, tungsten and – according to this newest report out by Apple – $39,502,000 worth of gold.

George Frey/Getty Images
George Frey/Getty Images

All that gold from old devices? According to Fairphone, an activist group focused on electronic companies and supply chains, a smartphone contains 30 milligrams of gold on average, a tiny treasure found on internal components such as circuit boards. Apple has recycled millions of iPhones and computers, and with the current spot price per troy ounce of gold sitting at $1,229.80, the company's recoveries are nothing short of a gold strike.

Recovery methods are also yielding some big returns in other materials, including more than 61 million pounds of glass, aluminum and steel. Apple's report also claims that in total, the company has collected almost 90 million pounds of waste through its recycling program.

Here's what the 61,357,800 pounds of material recovered for reuse in Apple's 2015 take-back initiatives looks like: 23,101,000 pounds of steel, 39,672 pounds of nickel, 13,422,360 pounds of plastics, 44,080 pounds of lead, 11,945,680 pounds of glass, 130,036 pounds of zinc, 4,518,200 pounds of aluminum, 4,408 pounds of tin, 2,953,360 pounds of copper, 6,612 pounds of silver, 189,544 pounds of cobalt and – of course – 2,204 pounds of gold.

Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Apple
Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Apple

In a move to enhance waste reduction programs, Apple plans to expand and modify the iPhone-salvaging robot Liam to take apart all different models of iPhones and collect even more resources. For now, Liam only can help recycle iPhone 6 devices.

The release of Apple's most recent report came with a green overhaul of another sort as well, with the company's App Store promoting Apps for Earth. This new push will give the proceeds from 27 different apps to the World Wildlife Fund.

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