Apple’s ‘Recycled’ Macs Aren’t What They Seem
The company’s move to recycled aluminum is good PR… and that’s about it
Apple is washing itself green.
The tech company announced Tuesday that it will build its new MacBook Air and Mac Mini computers using “100 percent recycled aluminum.” The move is part of a goal Apple set in 2017 to use only renewable or recycled materials in its products. While shifting to recycled aluminum is a step in the right direction (mining bauxite, the world’s primary aluminum source, is dangerous work and poisons the environment), it’s more of a PR win for Apple than a meaningful victory for the planet.
Aluminum is just about the easiest metal to recycle, and there’s tons of it already on the market. In fact, most of the aluminum Apple uses is probably already recycled, according to Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, which advocates for companies that repair old devices.
The announcement “makes Apple sound noble and sustainable when any manufacturer that needs to buy aluminum is also buying 75 percent recycled content without making any special effort,” Gordon-Byrne says.
Apple says it will collect some recycled aluminum from shavings left over from producing iPads and other hardware. But the company has conspicuously not promised to collect all its recycled aluminum from its own dross, meaning the casing of your next MacBook Air is likely to contain bits of airplane fuselage and old soda cans.
It’s likely that this aluminum would have been purchased by someone else anyway, and it’s hard to see how Apple’s announcement amounts to a significant environmental victory if it’s not creating incentives to dramatically increase the amount of recycled aluminum on the market. The company did not immediately respond to Medium’s request for comment about this.
“Apple has done the math and knows full well that marketing sustainability is much cheaper than actually doing it.”
Buying recycled aluminum is simple, cheap, and probably a good business decision for Apple anyway, according to Kyle Wiens, who advocates for responsible device recycling and…