Disposal of electronics items can, if done poorly, leave a trail of extremely toxic chemicals. Often electronics are sent overseas where workers in substandard conditions using primitive tools smash apart electronics, melting them down for valuable metals. In many cases the workers are sickened from exposure to toxic chemicals. It doesn't have to be done this way.
According to Apple's Environment website, they now have recycling centers in each region, meaning products turned in to Apple are recycled in the regional recycling center rather than shipped to a chop shop in the 3rd world.
On the website is this pledge:
Once an Apple product reaches the end of its life, we make it easy to recycle. Every Apple retail store will now take back Apple products for free, responsible recycling. We also hold special recycling events where we'll even accept other companies' products. We're continually thinking of ways to make more innovative products without taking more from the environment.
Elsewhere on the site they discuss the resource reductions Apple has made over the years. For example, by decreasing package size (efficient packaging) they can fit more products into the same shipping containers, requiring fewer containers to handle the same product sales volume. Another example is power reduction.n Where the original iMac required 35 watts while in sleep mode, today's iMac requires only 0.9 watts while in sleep mode. That's despite having a far more powerful processor, mass storage and larger screen.
Apple has also eliminated mercury from the displays, PVC from power cords, arsenic from glass, lead from solder, BFR from plastics, and phtalate's from cables. That's a nice list of toxic chemicals that don't appear in Apple products.
All this sounds great and Apple put out a nice movie to go along with todays announcement that sounds all gooey and wonderful. But...
Up front they say: We want to leave the world better than we found it.
I agree 100%. BUT... They talk up better data centers, better electronics gizmos, etc, that are less harmful to the environment. But the phrase "less harmful" doesn't mean the environment is "better" just that Apple worked out how to cause less harm.
Less harm doesn't mean Apple is making the world better. Just that Apple is still inflicting harm on the planet, but less harm than they previously inflicted.
That Apple is building whole data centers powered 100% from renewable energy, and kitted out with high efficiency cooling systems, is more than cool. It's fantastic. But it's also a building, that's occupying land space that could otherwise be growing plants. It's a highly concentrated system of electromagnetic fields that have poorly understood effects on living beings.
The image above is Apple's breakdown of their greenhouse gas footprint, and we see that Manufacturing is their largest culprit. One thing to note is this only accounts for greenhouse gas footprint, not for other environmental effects.
In the video they talk about still having a long way to go, and that's what I'm saying. Apple is making big strides, but the journey is not finished.