Arms race

23.03.2016 Apple : Liam : Recycling
Liam the robot by Apple, US

Cupertino, California – Apple’s latest innovation is a 29-armed robot that deconstructs iPhones piece by piece.

  • Apple has launched a raft of high-profile sustainability initiatives in the past few years
  • Electronic waste is a growing global concern. According to the United Nations University, 41.8m tonnes of e-waste were generated globally in 2014, while only 6.5m tonnes were recycled

The robot, known as Liam, has been in development for almost three years. While most electronic waste recycling programmes involve destructive processes such as shredding, Liam breaks down iPhones one piece at a time along its 29-stage disassembly line.

This avoids any cross-contamination, making the components more attractive to the third-party companies that turn them back into raw materials. Liam has a 97% success rate at removing each component, according to Apple, and can strip about 350 phones an hour.

Apple has repeatedly been urged to take responsibility for the environmental costs of manufacturing and disposal of its products, especially considering it sold more than 231m iPhones last year. In 2015 the company announced plans to make its supply chain more sustainable and a target to eventually power all of its operations using renewable energy.

The Big Picture

Consumers are now hyper-aware of the lasting impact their buying choices have on the environment and are choosing their brands accordingly. It is no longer enough to have a sustainability policy – brands need to take steps to lead the conversation. Find out more in our Whole-system Thinking macrotrend. 

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