UK blames Apple and Amazon for 'tsunami' of electronic waste

Posted:
in General Discussion
The UK government's Environmental Audit Committee says Apple makes it "nearly impossible" to repair devices such as the iPhone, and not "playing their part" in recycling.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Following a nine-month consultation, the UK's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has concluded that companies such as Apple should be required to be more responsible about electronic waste. Apple, which declined to contribute to the research, is accused of deliberately making its products so expensive to repair that consumers buy new devices instead.

"Tech companies such as Apple have been found to glue and solder together internal components making any repair nearly impossible," says the report summary. "The EAC found that consumers do not have control over the products they own; they cannot take components out to repair themselves and they cannot access manuals on how issues can be fixed."

"Instead the charges proposed for repair by Apple in particular can be so expensive it is more economical to replace the item completely," it continues.

The full report takes into account problems in all forms of electronic devices, ranging from "sealed drums in washing machines," to how Apple and others use "unique 'pentablobe screws' to prevent wide access for repair."

The Environmental Audit Committee notes that the UK creates the "second highest" amount of electronic waste in the world. It also says that the country may be illegally exporting around 40% of its e-waste to overseas.

"A lot of it goes to landfill, incineration or is dumped overseas," it says. "Under current laws producers and retailers of electronics are responsible for this waste, yet they are clearly not fulfilling that responsibility."

The EAC wants what it calls a "true right to repair." It says this starts with how products should be designed to be repairable, plus spare parts must be available -- and so must official repair manuals.

Although Apple did not accept an invitation from the EAC to contribute during the research, The Guardian newspaper says the company has responded to the results.

"We were surprised and disappointed with the Environmental Audit Committee's report, which does not reflect any of Apple's efforts to conserve resources and protect the planet we all share," said an Apple spokesperson in a statement to The Guardian.

"There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before," the spokesperson continued, "and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone lineup all use recycled material across key components."

"We will continue to work with parliament and the government to document Apple's industry-leading commitments and to support our common effort to leave a clean economy and a healthy planet for the next generation," concluded Apple.

Amazon also responded by saying that it is "committed to minimizing waste" through its Amazon Second Chance website.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    Considering how open Apple has been about their recycling efforts and how every part of an iPhone is recycled, this demonstrates the inevitable trend of government officials only being competent at running for office and staying in office; but having little to know grasp of the subject matter they wrote legislation and regulations about.
    williamlondonflyingdpmagman1979stompyflydoglkruppviclauyycrazorpituraharaStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 42
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,352member
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    williamlondonflyingdpmagman1979stompyflydoglkruppDancingMonkeysbloggerblogviclauyycrazorpit
  • Reply 3 of 42
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    The other way to look at this, if consumers did not want all these great electronics then companies Apple and Amazon would not make and sell them. It's starts with demand not supply.

    I would agree Amazon allows lots of cheap Chinese electronics that do not last to be sold, but if consumers were not always looking for the cheapest things to buy there would not so much electric trash. Apple stuff last way longer. My iMac is 8 yrs old and still going strong, all my Macs last 8 plus years. I'm still using my first gen watch, and just upgraded my iPhone 6 to a iPhone 11, not because the phone did not work, just time to have new features. In this case I was no better than most who have to update just to have the latest and greatest.

    Even if people could fix the phone most will not the buy new because they want something new.

    Telling consumers they are the problem does not go wells and causes politicians to loose their job so it's easier to blame companies.
    williamlondonkillroyviclauyycDogpersonols
  • Reply 4 of 42
    The problem I have with this is blaming the likes of Apple who puts considerable amount of R&D into recycling and sustainably sourced raw materials.  Think about all the e-waste from failed products from other companies.  How about the millions of first gen Samsung Galaxy folds that never got purchased.  Or the Windows Duo?  Or the Razor flip.  What happens to all those perfectly new phones that just sit on shelves?  And all the wasted raw materials that went into producing these products.  
    magman1979genovellemaximaraolsmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 5 of 42
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,727member
    I don't get this.  When I buy a new iPhone, I walk into an Apple store, buy the phone, hand them my old one, and move one.  Am I missing something?

    Ah.. right.. politicians... can't blame the individual (i.e. "voter") so best to blame a faceless corporation.  Got it.
    killroyflyingdpmagman1979lkruppviclauyycDogpersonolsargonauturahara
  • Reply 6 of 42
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,714member
    jkichline said:
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    Generaly speaking, repairing something is more environmentally friendly than recycling it.  That's the point.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.
    kiltedgreenprismaticselijahgargonautmuthuk_vanalingamtokyojimu
  • Reply 7 of 42
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,541member
    Blame industrial revolution that screwed environment to the point of no return. Why only blame Apple and Amazon when when world is full of alike Huawei,Samsung,Anker and other zillions manufacturers who don't care. Apple is trying to encourage recycle, removes power bricks from phone box to encourage use the one already in house,go green in every aspect of their operations,etc.. 
    killroymagman1979Dogpersonmaximaraargonaut
  • Reply 8 of 42
    A "tsunami of waste" is what the 20th century economic model was based around. Everyone alive in an industrialized country shares the blame. Moving away from that model towards something truly sustainable is probably the biggest challenge of the 21st century.  
    kiltedgreenmagman1979elijahgJapheyargonautmuthuk_vanalingamtokyojimu
  • Reply 9 of 42
    crowley said:
    jkichline said:
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    Generaly speaking, repairing something is more environmentally friendly than recycling it.  That's the point.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.
    Repairing broken electronics these days involves replacing the broken parts. These parts are too small, too fragile or too complex to be repaired so end up in either the recycle bin or landfill. The small repair shops don’t have the resources to recycle and reuse that Apple does. So, I’m thinking that repairing sounds good in theory it isn’t as clear cut as you imply. 
    magman1979stompymaximaraurahara
  • Reply 10 of 42
    sflocal said:
    I don't get this.  When I buy a new iPhone, I walk into an Apple store, buy the phone, hand them my old one, and move one.  Am I missing something?

    Ah.. right.. politicians... can't blame the individual (i.e. "voter") so best to blame a faceless corporation.  Got it.
    Agreed....way too easy. Apple will accept old iphone 6  trade value of $30....still works but need upgrades and they will send even a box free shipping for you to send. How hard could that be?? 
    magman1979
  • Reply 11 of 42
    Remember that story about someone arrested for "stealing" iPhones for repair and resale that Apple wanted melted down? That pretty much is all you need to know about Apple's commitment to the environment.
    lam92103prismaticselijahg
  • Reply 12 of 42
    Remember that story about someone arrested for "stealing" iPhones for repair and resale that Apple wanted melted down? That pretty much is all you need to know about Apple's commitment to the environment.
    And what's wrong with melting down raw materials for later re-use in new products, so that mines don't have to tear open the ground for "fresh" sources of the same materials?

    Yeah, that IS Apple's commitment to the environment!

    I hate trolls...
    DancingMonkeysRayz2016right_said_fredjdb8167
  • Reply 13 of 42
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,328member
    Wgkrueger said:
    crowley said:
    jkichline said:
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    Generaly speaking, repairing something is more environmentally friendly than recycling it.  That's the point.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.
    Repairing broken electronics these days involves replacing the broken parts. These parts are too small, too fragile or too complex to be repaired so end up in either the recycle bin or landfill. The small repair shops don’t have the resources to recycle and reuse that Apple does. So, I’m thinking that repairing sounds good in theory it isn’t as clear cut as you imply. 
    A couple of points here:

    • Apple has a refurbished products section for devices that are new enough to be resold
    • Repairing modern electronics typically requires tools and expertise that aren't cheap to obtain.  No one is going to pay nearly the same price (or more) for a repair as they would for a new device.  And no one will buy a big, clunky, easily repairable device -- sorry, but the days of big, beige box PCs and brick sized cell phones are long gone.  It's the small, fragile components which make repairs so difficult, not having to use a bit of heat to loosen glue.

    right_said_fred
  • Reply 14 of 42
    XedXed Posts: 1,026member
    crowley said:
    jkichline said:
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    Generaly speaking, repairing something is more environmentally friendly than recycling it.  That's the point.

    Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.
    Sure, but how many devices are being repaired or upgraded to extend their life? I’ve surely repaired and upgraded more devices than the average person on this forum has and I use iFixit a lot due to their very competent repair guides (when I haven’t done it enough to know every step) and yet that still pales in comparison to the number of devices I own that I’ve never upgraded or the value I get from a well built Apple device  that lasts much longer than devices from other vendors. 

    Personally, I’d love for the M-series Macs to have many more user-upgradable options, but I also love that the integration leads to a faster, more secure, and (historically speaking) less likely to break device.

    People in the repair industry even complain about the seals and tight fit that keep dust and moisture out as this both complicated and increases repair costs. I’ve never tested it, but I can’t imagine that my use of a 3rd-party seal when replacing a display will be as good as keeping water out of the device as the factory installation.
    edited November 2020
  • Reply 15 of 42
    XedXed Posts: 1,026member
    Remember that story about someone arrested for "stealing" iPhones for repair and resale that Apple wanted melted down? That pretty much is all you need to know about Apple's commitment to the environment.
    Maybe you should reread that story to understand why their theft and unethical sales to unsuspecting buyers is a problem for Apple and their customers.
  • Reply 16 of 42
    jkichline said:
    I mean just turn your phone into Apple and they recycle it. How complicated is this? They make that very clear. 
    And they'll even pay the shipping. I just recycled my 6s through Apple.
    right_said_fred
  • Reply 17 of 42
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,102member
    sflocal said:
    I don't get this.  When I buy a new iPhone, I walk into an Apple store, buy the phone, hand them my old one, and move one.  Am I missing something?

    Ah.. right.. politicians... can't blame the individual (i.e. "voter") so best to blame a faceless corporation.  Got it.
    You need to listen to these self appointed high priests. Listen with both ears, and repent, repent from your sins and your fallen ways, turn your eyes away from that red lipped temptress jezebel from Californi and her seductive pleasures. Life for the serfs is not meant to be easy.
    Repent I say!
    edited November 2020 right_said_fred
  • Reply 18 of 42
    If I recall I obtained a new battery for an iPhone 4s for about $15 from iFixit. 10 minutes to replace. Saved $85 vs the Apple replacement. The worn battery went into the proper recycling channel and the phone still works to this day. The choice used to be available.  2011. Again.
    elijahgmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 42
    Two different quotes from two different sections:

     “Research undertaken by Professor Tim Cooper has found that a product’s lifetime should, in most cases, be extended for as long as possible since roughly speaking, doubling a lifespan will halve the product’s environmental impact.189 190 Green Alliance has put some figures on specific electronic products that show how lengthening a lifespan can save carbon, energy and water consumption.191 According to a European Environmental Bureau (EEB) study (2019), extending the lifetime of all washing machines, smartphones, laptops and vacuum cleaners in the EU by one year would lead to annual savings of around four million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, which is equivalent to taking over two million cars off the roads for a year.”

     “Contributors to our inquiry have argued that making repair of electrical and electronic products easier is vital to reaching a circular economy and is intrinsically linked to making more durable products. For example, the Restart Project has estimated that over 1,000 community repair events logged in its online system have saved an estimated 17,864kg of electronic waste and an estimated 280,894kg CO2 emissions.”

     It could be argued, and I so argue, that these two attributes have become mutually exclusive. Apple has made its products last far longer than average, but in doing so it made "repairing" them more difficult. Was ANY attempt to weigh the net environmental benefit vs environmental cost made? Also, while I admittedly didn't do an exhaustive study of this study, where is it quantitatively shown that Apple products and their approach are creating a more than an average contribution to the "tsunami"? (Crickets)
    edited November 2020 muthuk_vanalingamkiltedgreen
  • Reply 20 of 42
    They Have lost their minds... i guess there should be no more advancemnts.. thecnology should freeze so we are not tempted to buy a new product..... plus as far as Apple products, they change hands numerous time and dont get thrown in garbage. Beyond that Apple offer’s a recycling program! so maybe its best that these morans educate themselves and the public. ....mind boggling..
    edited November 2020 Dogperson
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