Apple promises to stop mineral mining — but doesn’t yet know how to pull it off

“It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it,” Apple wrote in it’s latest environmental impact report.

Apple products appear on display at Macy’s flagship store in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Anne D’Innocenzio

Just in time for Earth Day, Apple pledged to “stop mining the earth altogether” for rare minerals, metals, and materials used to create its products. But the iPhone manufacturer admits that it hasn’t quite figured out how to wean itself off mining.

“We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it,” Lisa Jackson, Apple SVP of environmental policy told Vice. “So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.”

Right now, many of the elements of Apple’s electronic devices require rare materials often found in conflict areas that pose both environmental and human risks. Apple has been a leader on cleaning up its supply chain, announcing in 2015, for instance, that it would audit all of its suppliers from the conflict-plagued and mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Now the company aims to pivot toward investing in a closed-loop supply chain where products are made only from recycled or renewable materials.

“For aluminum, we found that one of the best sources of recycled material was our own products and processes,” Apple wrote in its new sustainability report. “Our challenge is to recover the aluminum from our products without degrading its quality.”

In addition to identifying better recycling techniques, Apple’s environmental report touted using 100 percent renewable energy in facilities across 24 countries, all of its data centers, and its headquarters in Cupertino, California. Apple also mapped its carbon footprint — 29,500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — 77 percent of which come from manufacturing.

Most of that comes from electricity use, so Apple said it is “sourcing lower-carbon materials, partnering with our suppliers around the world to reduce their current energy use, and helping them switch to renewable energy.”

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Apple’s green efforts have come a long way in recent years. A 2012 Greenpeace report on renewable energy use in tech named Apple one of the dirtiest users. Now, Apple leads the pack while Amazon and Microsoft have lagged behind.


Apple promises to stop mineral mining — but doesn’t yet know how to pull it off was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.