Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Apple's Recycling Robot Needs Your Help to Save the World

            Our generation produces more waste than is healthy for our environment. Most people who think about recycling generally think of everyday trash including plastic wrappers, bottles, boxes and paper but there are other things that can be recycled such as e-waste. E- waste is a much larger problem than people realize. 41.8 million tons were produced in 2014 and this needs to change. Apple realizes this problem and is working on a solution. While the solution is still in the early stages and it will not be able to recycle all of the waste that they produce, it is a step in the right direction. First, Apple refurbishes phones and sells them to a second or third owner however this is not possible with all old iPhones. They recently released their attempt to recycle those phones that are beyond repair and it is called Liam. Liam is a robot that disassembles iPhones at a rate of one every eleven seconds. The parts of the iPhone are taken apart and separated into those that can be used and those that cannot.
            While this may sound like a solution to the problem there are many factors to be considered. The article discusses the obstacles that Liam is unable to overcome. The first problem is that it is very difficult for Apple to get all of their old products back. There are millions of iPhones being used around the world and people dispose of them in many different ways, which makes it nearly impossible for Apple to track down and properly recycle all of them. Another problem is that Liam is currently only able to disassemble the iPhone 6s. While Apple hopes to create different versions of Liam in the future to deal with other devices, right now only a very small percentage of Apple products can be recycled in this way. Finally, in order to deal with the amount of Apple products that are sold and used around the world, many more of these robots will need to be built and distributed to e-waste recyclers around the world. Although there are clearly many issues with Liam, environmentalists are impressed with Apple’s attempt to deal with the effects of their products on the environment.
            The article effectively described not only the problem of e-waste but also the robot and what is does with the Apple product as well as how it is beneficial. The article also addressed the problems that come with recycling Apple products and Apple’s hope for the future of recycling robots. However, the article lacked explanation of when and how Apple would be releasing new products to solve these problems. Also the article could have been clearer about where Apple products generally end up after they are disposed, and how Apple might be able to recover these products.

 Wiens, Kyle. "Apple’s Recycling Robot Needs Your Help to Save the World." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. 

 Volcovici, Valerie. "Apple's Robot Rips Apart IPhones for Recycling." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. 


  1. Hi Chelsea, I found this article to be very interesting. I love the idea of Liam and recycling old iPhones, however, I agree that there needs to be an explanation and a way to get all of the iPhones that get disposed of. Also, if the majority of iPhones disposed do not even make it to Liam, how effective will it be? Plus, the fact that only iPhone 6s can be taken apart and recycled really limits the number of phones that are able to be recycled. I do like the use of IT to create a robot that knows the parts of the iPhones and how to take them apart. However, I think that going forward, adding different skills to Liam- like taking apart iPhone 4s, 5s, iPads and iPods would be very helpful and would add a lot to the recycling effort. I do believe Apple is on the right track with their green efforts, but I think they can only move forward from here.

  2. I think Liam is a great idea. It is both environmentally responsible and cost effective. If they built a robot to disassemble the 6s, doing the same for the future and passed models most likely would not be that hard. Another thing they could do is find a way to disassemble competitors products and use their materials. Having consumers ship recyclables to the can significantly cut cost. Apple does have a problem getting all the phones back. What they have to do is offer incentives to customers who return their old phones. Discounts on newer models, iTunes gift cards, and other promotional techniques would incentivize people to returning their old phones instead of leaving them sitting somewhere in their house. I’m no expert in electronics manufacturing but the silicon and lithium that go into making iPhones are a limited resource as well as an expensive one. Another benefit of recycling phones is that they could advertise refurbished iPhones as made in America. People criticize big companies for outsourcing and I don’t think there are many smartphones out there made domestically. If they made phones at recycling plants here in America or simply refurbished them they could use that to promote themselves. Liam is a progressive idea and I am not surprised Apple is trying something like this. Hopefully they will increase recycling use and be able to build similar recycling machines for computers, apple watches and other electronics.

  3. The Apples Liam recycling device is very interesting. For beginners its the first recycling device I've ever heard of with a human name. It almost adds some sort of human like identity comparable to Apple Siri. Although it's just made to seem intelligent it makes people respect it more for its message and purpose. What a better way to advertise the capabilities than to have the robot do it (sudo) directly to the audience. The iPhone has a lot of precious metals and reusable plastic so I'm very glad to see its not being wasted. I don't know how I really feel about recycling an expensive phone, its surely not the first thing I would do after getting a new one. Most of my old iPhones sit in my room collecting dust most of the time. Im sure when the time comes though id be interested in Apples program. Im not sure how many people just throw away their old phones, I have never heard about someone doing this actually. Id be interested to see some regional statistics on just how many iPhones end up in the trash.


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