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Apple recovers £28 million in scrap gold from old iPhones and iPads

Published Wednesday 13th July 2016

It’s highly unlikely your old, broken or outdated gold jewellery will end up in the bin and heading for landfill, because it’s not the kind of thing you throw out with the rubbish.

But it’s a different story with electronic waste that’s past its sell-by date or just doesn’t work anymore. Last week, we took a look at how a massive e-waste scrap market in India is providing work for hundreds of people scrabbling about among the old computers and mobile phones to remove the precious gold, silver and copper wiring they use for recycling.

In the US, tech giant Apple – a big user of recycled gold in its products – actually produces an annual report covering how much precious metal it recycles from old iPhones and iPads. You may just be surprised at the quantity.

In 2015, Apple recovered almost a metric tonne of gold from old products that were no longer wanted. It gives some perspective on just how much recycled gold is demanded by the market and why there is such a strong trade in it. Apple is just one of the tech companies that use precious metals in its products, so imagine how much is needed to meet international demand.

The California-based business’ Environmental Responsibility Report says that the value of gold it recovered last year was around £28 million pounds. Given the rocketing price of bullion over this year, it’s likely that the value will be much higher when it comes to calculating the figure for 2016.

It also extracted an amazing 6,612lbs of silver, 2,953,360lbs of copper and 101,000lbs of steel from devices in 2015. Apple has robots called Liam, which were invented to do the job of taking apart more than a million iPhones every year to get at the precious metals they contain.

One of the reasons Apple is successful at recovering gold, silver and copper to use again in its products is its programme to offer money off new devices when customers hand in their old ones for recycling. It’s a double whammy – Apple is able to retain the customers, and get at the gold it needs to keep producing its tech.