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The iPhone 11 looks pretty green, but is not the best choice for the environment



The new iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro both look pretty green. They are not only available in attractive mint and emerald tones, but Apple has also made an effort to point out its environmental impact. But how "green" are they really?

One of the first things Apple noticed during its September 10 launch was the case of cell phones. These are available in various materials, including luxurious titanium and ceramics. However, the standard range is 100% recycled aluminum.

This is a good start – the use of recycled materials also means that less mining is required and aluminum can be recycled in infinite numbers. So it can be processed and reused as soon as the phone reaches the end of its life. In contrast, plastic can be recycled about seven times and paper about four times before the fibers are too short to be structurally sound.

The case, however, is only part of the phone. There are also all the materials in a phone to consider, including rare earth metals, which are in high demand and are only available in a few places worldwide for mining.

Apple uses 1

00% recycled rare earth metals in its Taptic engine. However, this corresponds to only a quarter of all rare earth metals in the entire phone. Still, it's refreshing that Apple admits this, and hopefully that percentage will increase in the coming years.

And what about these metals at the end of telephone life? The Royal Society of Chemistry estimates that in the UK alone, up to 40 million devices could be stored containing rare earth metals that could be better utilized.

  Old Electronics

(Photo credits): Shutterstock)

However, if there's no way to recycle your old phone at an appropriate distance, then it may be the best tactic to hold on to until such a service becomes available. To throw it in the normal garbage means that its components are not only trapped and unusable, but remain forever. If you store your old cell phones, there is at least the possibility that they can eventually be recycled.

Reuse, Recycle

During the iPhone 11 launch, Apple was also interested in promoting mobile phone trading. in the scheme, with the owners of existing iPhones this can exchange for a discount on a new model. The older phones are then either "revived" or recycled by renovation.

For devices that can not be recovered, Apple has developed a machine called Daisy specifically for disassembling old iPhones for recycling. The robot is capable of disassembling 2,000 phones per hour and extracting recyclable material, including cobalt, which is then reused in new phone batteries.

By providing an incentive for users to recycle their legacy devices, Apple is helping to prevent phone landfill and reduce the need to mine more material

So how does Apple relate to other phone manufacturers? To be honest, it's hard to say that there are so many different components in different quantities and companies choose which parts of their processes to report, making a direct comparison almost impossible.

Samsung, z For example, does not provide as much information on recycling, but indicates that a scheme is being implemented that converts old phones into devices for the Internet of Things (apparently for schoolchildren). However, the sustainability report is less transparent than Apple's and covers the entire performance of the company rather than individual devices.

Keep it up

Luckily, Apple has a long tradition of supporting legacy products and continues to provide software updates for many years. After their initial release, you no longer have to upgrade too often.

However, you must be careful with it. Apple offers comprehensive repair services through AppleCare insurance. However, if your phone is not easily repaired, the company simply sends you a brand new device before you return the damaged device. Great for you, but not so fantastic when it comes to electronic waste.

iPhones are hard to repair themselves. If you are looking for something that can be easily repaired at home, the Fairphone 3 is worth a look. Thanks to the modular design and the complete absence of glued components, you can disassemble the device with minimal experience in electronics and replace parts and remove defective parts.

  Fairphone 3

(Credit: Fairphone)

To ensure that the materials in the phones are sustainable and ethical, the supply chain should be tracked as much as possible. As with Apple, there is also a recycling program, with which not only old fairphones, but all phones of other manufacturers can be delivered in cash.

The conclusion

Apple seems to be doing well in the field of the environment. But investing in a new iPhone 11 is probably not the greenest choice – and not the Fairphone 3. Look at your current handset. Sure, it may not have three cameras or Dolby Atmos sound, but has it actually reached the end of its useful life?

As so often, the most environmentally friendly option is the most boring: forego the shiny new gadgets on Sept. 10 (no matter how green), and use your existing phone for as long as possible.


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