According to its annual environmental report, Apple recovered over a ton of gold from recycled devices in 2015.
Last year, Apple processed 90 million pounds of broken or unwanted devices, and found quite a few reusable materials, including gold. According to Apple's report, roughly two-thirds (over 61 million pounds) of the 90 million pounds of electronics were reusable materials like steel, cobalt, aluminum, copper, silver, and some plastics. The most valuable reusable material salvaged was 2,204 pounds of gold, which would sell for roughly $40 million at today's gold prices. "Existing recycling techniques, like shredding, only recover a few kinds of materials and often diminish their quality," said Apple. "So we invented Liam, a line of robots designed to disassemble 1.2 million phones a year, sorting all [of] their high-quality components and reducing the need to mine more resources from the earth." Liam prototypes are currently working in California and the Netherlands.
In addition to revealing information on reusable materials, Apple acknowledged that its devices do have a definitive life span. According to the report, Apple estimates that an iPhone's productive life cycle will last 3 years, as will the Apple Watch. OS X and tvOS devices will last a bit longer, but are estimated to reach only the 4-year mark. While this does not mean that the devices will start to fail at this time, Apple believes that users will exchange their devices on this timetable. This is the first time Apple has acknowledged that its devices have a projected life span. It is possible that Apple will use this information to decide the length of support for its hardware, though the company has not confirmed this suspicion.
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