Why Apple's New iPhone XR Could Be A Turning Point For Eco-Friendly Cellphones

Photo: Jessica Sharmin

"As a country, we're throwing hundreds of thousands of devices in the trash every day. We have a huge e-waste problem." That was the foreboding message that Gabe Middleton, co-founder and CEO of tech recycling company Human I-T, shared with mbg earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, Apple is one of the main contributors to the e-waste epidemic, having sold 2 billion iOs devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches) to date. But the trillion-dollar company is trying to clean up its act.

"We hope to one day eliminate our need to mine new materials from the earth," Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, announced at a company news conference on Wednesday, where the new iPhone model was unveiled.

Jackson explained that this new iPhone XR, as well as the iPhone X, will incorporate 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic in their speaker enclosures, and 32 percent bio-based plastic in their frames. While this might not seem like a particularly meaningful change, the company expects it will prevent more than 10,000 tons of tin ore from being mined per year. Starting a push to reuse materials from old phones could also cut down on the amount of tech sitting in landfill, which leach chemicals like mercury, lead, cadmium, flame retardants, and lithium into the environment.

Creating devices using recycled materials is a start, but building durable technology is another way companies can help out the planet. "The demand for new technology is higher than it's ever been. But the way these manufacturers are designing devices—they're designed not to last," Middleton explained.

Apple has come under fire for intentionally slowing down their batteries in older devices and making their tech really difficult to repair, so here's hoping the recent announcement signals more sustainable changes to come.

In the meantime, if you do have an old iPhone, the most eco-friendly thing to do is probably recycle it with Apple since the company is the proud parent of Daisy, a sparkly new robot that can disassemble up to 200 iPhones an hour. Welcome to the future!

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