Apple Highlights Use of Recyclable Plastics in New MacBook Air and Mac mini

Apple today shared environmental reports for the new MacBook Air and Mac mini, the first two Macs with 100 percent recycled aluminum enclosures.


The eco-friendly designs of the new MacBook Air and Mac mini extends beyond aluminum. The bottom cover and connector wall in the new Mac mini, for example, are made from 60 percent recycled plastic, while its fan contains 27 percent bio-based plastic made with renewable sources rather than petroleum.

Likewise, the vent and speakers in the new MacBook Air contain 35 percent and 45 percent recycled plastic respectively. The butterfly switches on the new MacBook Air's keyboard also contain 34 percent bio-based plastic, while the solder on the main logic board is made from 100 percent recycled tin.

Apple says the new Mac mini generates 45 percent fewer emissions than the previous-generation model, while the new MacBook Air generates 47 percent fewer emissions than the previous-generation model, each over a four-year lifespan.

Apple also says the new MacBook Air's packaging uses 87 percent less plastic than the previous-generation model's packaging.

Apple's ultimate goal is to use only recycled or renewable materials in its products, and source them responsibly, and it has certainly taken further steps forward with the latest MacBook Air and Mac mini.

Related Roundups: Mac mini, MacBook Air

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Apple to Invest in Mangrove Forest Restoration Project in Colombia

Apple has announced it will invest in a mangrove tree restoration project for a 27,000-acre forest in Colombia, as part of a broader effort by the company to achieve carbon neutrality (via Fast Company).

Apple VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives Lisa Jackson gave details of the investment at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, but stopped short of disclosing how much cash Apple intends to earmark for the project, which is being undertaken in partnership with the non-profit Conservation International.

Image via Fast Company
"These forests are critical because they're one of nature's most important tools in the battle against climate change – they can absorb and store up to ten times more carbon than a terrestrial forest," Jackson told the audience.
The project will involve tree-planting in degraded areas of the Colombian forest and tree preservation, which should help capture an estimated one million metric tons of CO2 emissions over its lifetime. Projections over the first two years indicate 17,000 metric tons in reduced emissions.

That's the same amount of emissions generated by the cars that will update Apple Maps over the next decade, making the program carbon neutral for the company, notes Fast Company.

According to M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, mangrove trees are excellent absorbers of carbon and are able to store carbon dioxide in their leaves and branches, as well as siphon off the gas into surrounding soil and sediment through vast underwater root systems.

Mangrove trees "have the densest carbon storage of any habitat on Earth," said Sanjayan. "If you want to actually change the thermostat of the world in your lifetime, then ending the destruction of mangroves and restoring them is one of the biggest things you can do."

Conservation International has calculated how much "blue carbon" the trees sequester underwater, which will allow the project to quantify the trees' ability to act as "carbon sponges".
"By investing, [Apple] opened the door for others to also think about blue carbon as a viable way to sequester carbon and reduce emissions globally," said Sanjayan.
Back in 2015, Apple partnered with the Conservation Fund to acquire over 36,000 acres of working forest in Maine and California, ensuring the maintenance of the forests and preserving the supply of raw materials for paper. Later that year, Apple committed to protecting one million acres of forest in China.

Underlining its environmental commitments, Apple announced in April that its global facilities, including retail stores, offices, data centers, and more, are powered with 100 percent clean energy.


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Apple Announces New $300 Million Clean Energy Fund in China

Apple today announced the launch of a $300 million investment fund in China which is designed to connect Apple's suppliers with renewable energy sources.

Apple, along with 10 initial suppliers, is investing $300 million into the China Clean Energy Fund over the course of the next four years. Apple says the fund will invest in and develop clean energy projects totaling more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China, which is equivalent to powering close to 1 million homes.


Apple's new fund will be managed by DWS Group, a company that specializes in sustainable investments. DWS also plans to invest in the fund.
"At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. "We're thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet."
According to Apple, the China Clean Energy Fund will provide participates with the advantage of greater purchasing power and the ability to attain "more attractive and diverse" clean energy solutions.

Participating suppliers include Catcher Technology, Compal Electronics, Corning Incorporated, Golden Arrow, Jabil, Luxshare-ICT, Pegatron, Solway, Sunway Communication, and Wistron.

Apple earlier this year announced that all of its facilities around the world are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, a milestone achievement for the company.

To hit that goal, Apple invested in and constructed renewable energy facilities around the world, including solar arrays, wind farms, biogas fuel cells, micro-hydration generation systems, and other energy storage technologies.

Since the launch of its Supplier Clean Energy Program in 2015, 23 manufacturing partners across 10 countries have committed to powering their Apple production lines with 100 percent clean energy.


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Apple Paves Way Towards Carbon-Free Aluminum Smelting Process as Latest Environmental Pledge

The aluminum used in Apple products ranging from iPhones to MacBooks could be more sustainably manufactured in as early as six years.


Apple today announced it has helped facilitate a collaboration between two of the world's largest aluminum producers, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, on a new carbon-free aluminum smelting process. Together, the companies have formed a joint venture called Elysis, which will work to develop the patented technology further.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto aim to achieve larger-scale production and commercialization of the process, with plans to license the technologies beginning in 2024. If fully developed and implemented, it will eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminum smelting process developed over 130 years ago.

Instead of carbon dioxide, the new process releases oxygen, per Apple's press release:
Aluminum has been mass produced the same way since 1886, when it was pioneered by Alcoa's founder, Charles Hall. The process involves applying a strong electrical current to alumina, which removes oxygen. Both Hall's original experiments and today’s largest smelters use a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases. […]

Alcoa has designed a completely new process that replaces that carbon with an advanced conductive material, and instead of carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen.
Alcoa said it is currently producing aluminum at its facility near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the process has been operating at different scales since 2009. The new process spanned decades of research and is referred to as the most significant innovation in the aluminium industry in more than a century.

Apple said its involvement started in 2015, when three of its engineers went in search of a better way of mass producing aluminum. Apple ultimately helped bring Alcoa and Rio Tinto together, and has now pledged an investment of $13 million CAD to the joint venture, along with continued technical support.

Apple CEO Tim Cook:
Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come. We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products.
Elysis will be headquartered in Montréal, Québec, with the Governments of Canada and Québec each investing $60 million CAD. Alcoa and Rio Tinto will invest $55 million CAD cash over the next three years.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier of Québec Philippe Couillard were on hand for the announcement today. Trudeau said:
Today's announcement will create and maintain thousands of jobs for Canadians, significantly reduce Canada's carbon footprint, and further strengthen the aluminum industry in North America. It is a truly historic day for the aluminum industry – and for all Canadian aluminum workers – who play such an important role in our economy and our country's future.
Today's news follows Apple's announcement last month that all of its facilities are now powered with 100 percent clean energy and 23 of its suppliers have committed to do the same. Apple also introduced Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhones to recover valuable parts for recycling.


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Apple Shares 2018 Environmental Report With Details on Daisy Recycling Robot, Progress on Closed-Loop Supply Chain

Apple today shared its 2018 environmental report [PDF], outlining all of the improvements and changes that were implemented throughout 2017 and early 2018 to lessen the company's overall environmental impact.

As was announced earlier this month, Apple recently hit a major milestone and longtime environmental goal, with 100 percent of its operations around the world powered by renewable energy. Apple has also convinced 23 of its suppliers to commit to using 100 percent renewable energy so far.

A map of Apple's renewable energy projects

These efforts allowed Apple to cut down on its total carbon footprint in 2017. During the year, Apple was responsible for 27.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, down from 29.5 million metric tons in 2016.

A breakdown of Apple's carbon footprint

Through its unwavering commitment to renewable energy, improvements to energy efficiency, and a reduction in emissions from aluminum manufacturing, Apple has reduced emissions by 54 percent worldwide since 2011, and as of 2018, 66 percent of the renewable energy Apple procures comes from Apple's own projects.

Over the course of 2017, Apple worked to implement energy efficiency improvements to its facilities around the world, including Apple retail stores. Upgrades were made to LED lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, resulting in an overall electricity savings of 3.7 million kilowatt-hours per year.


Apple's overall energy footprint was reduced by 14.7 million kWh and 225,000 therms in fiscal 2017, and combined with other efficiency measures implemented since 2011, Apple cumulatively saves 70 million kWh of electricity and 2.4 million therms of natural gas per year. The company has also worked directly with its suppliers to audit facilities and find opportunities for better energy efficiency, with the program saving an annualized 320,000 metric tons of C02e from entering the atmosphere in 2017.

Today's environmental report highlights Apple's newest recycling robot, Daisy. Daisy can disassemble 200 iPhones per hour, removing and sorting components more efficiently than Apple's previous recycling robot, Liam. Daisy removes and sorts components from the iPhone, allowing Apple to collect more materials than it would get from traditional recycling methods.

Daisy has a smaller footprint than Liam and can disassemble multiple models of iPhone with higher variation compared to the earlier robot. Using Daisy, Apple was able to make progress towards its goal of creating products without mining materials from the earth, aka the closed loop supply chain that it announced as a goal in 2017.


Apple says that in 2017, it invited "key stakeholders" to small "closed-door roundtables" in Europe, the U.S., and China to get targeted feedback on its closed-loop supply chain ambitions. Apple spoke with academics, NGOs, industry leaders, and other companies.

The company has also been investing in research to figure out the barriers to implementing a closed-loop system, and it has been launching pilot programs to determine possible solutions. Apple outlines several materials and programs it's currently focusing on, including aluminum (sourced from old iPhones), cobalt (battery scrap is now shipped to a recycler), copper (reducing copper usage on PCBs), glass (new reuse and reprocess methods), paper (sustainable forests), plastics (aiming to eliminate plastics), rare earth elements (exploring new recycling technologies), steel (increasing recycled content), and tungsten (recovered from the Taptic Engine and sent to specialty recycler).

Apple's main accomplishment in 2017 was the use of 100 percent recycled tin for the solder on the main logic board in the iPhone 6s. Recycled tin is now being used for the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.

For those interested, Apple's full environmental report [PDF] goes into much greater detail on landfill usage, water usage, dangerous materials, recycling, product efficiency, and more, and it's well worth reading if you want to brush up on Apple's environmental protection efforts.


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Apple Says HomePod Consumes Less Power Than Average LED Bulb During Music Playback

Apple has outlined the HomePod's power consumption in an environmental report [PDF] about the speaker published today.


Apple says the HomePod consumes less power than an average ENERGY STAR certified LED household light bulb during music playback. The comparison is true, as a classic-shaped A-series LED bulb typically draws around 9-10 watts, while the HomePod draws around 8.74 watts with 115V of line voltage during music playback at 50 percent volume. Of course, power will vary depending on the volume.

The environmental report includes a chart with a complete breakdown of the HomePod's power consumption based on different line voltages. For those unaware, around 115V is standard in the United States and Canada, and around 230V is standard in many other countries like the UK. 100V is standard in Japan.


Apple says the HomePod is so energy efficient because it automatically enters a low power mode after eight minutes of inactivity. In this mode, the speaker draws between only 1.71 and 1.76 watts of power.

HomePod outperforms the stringent requirements of the ENERGY STAR Program Requirements for Audio/Video Version 3.0, consuming 50 percent less than the allowable energy for low power mode, according to Apple.
HomePod uses power-efficient components and software that can intelligently power them down during periods of inactivity. For example, through optimized power management features and a high-efficiency power supply, HomePod has been designed to be efficient in its low power mode, where the majority of time is spent. The result is that HomePod is energy efficient right out of the box.
The environmental report also notes the HomePod is free of brominated flame retardants, PVC, and beryllium, and adds that 100 percent of its packaging fibers are sourced from responsibly managed forests or recycled paper.

On a related note, an Apple support representative told 9to5Mac that the HomePod comes with a two-meter power cable in the box that is color matched in Space Gray or White. The representative said the cable is removable and user replaceable, but this wasn't the case on demo units, so it may be wrong information.

Apple began accepting HomePod orders today in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia for $349, £319, and $499 respectively. The speaker can be used elsewhere in English for now, with French and German coming this spring.

Related Roundup: HomePod

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Apple Shares iPhone X Environmental Report

Apple today shared an iPhone X environmental report, detailing the smartphone's environmental performance as it relates to climate change, energy efficiency, material efficiency, and restricted substances.


The report reveals that the base model iPhone X generates an equivalent of 79 kilograms of carbon dioxide over its life cycle, which is the highest estimated greenhouse gas emissions of any Apple smartphone since the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. 80 percent of the emissions come from production of the device.


A comparison of Apple's estimated greenhouse gas emissions for each iPhone model:
  • iPhone X: 79kg CO2e
  • iPhone 8: 57kg CO2e
  • iPhone 8 Plus: 68kg CO2e
  • iPhone 7: 56kg CO2e
  • iPhone 7 Plus: 67kg CO2e
  • iPhone 6s: 54kg CO2e
  • iPhone 6s Plus: 63kg CO2e
  • iPhone 6: 95kg CO2e
  • iPhone 6 Plus: 110kg CO2e
  • iPhone 5s: 65kg CO2e
Apple said the iPhone X's U.S. retail packaging contains 55 percent recycled content. 100 percent of the fiber in the device's box is sourced either from recycled content, bamboo, waste sugarcane, or responsibly managed forests.

Like other models, the iPhone X has a mercury-free display made with arsenic-free glass, and it's also free of BFR, PVC, and beryllium.

iPhone X received a highest-possible gold rating from EPEAT, a program that ranks mobile phones based on environmental attributes in accordance with UL 110. All models since the iPhone SE have also achieved gold ratings.


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