Apple recently relaunched its recycling program, which will now be called Apple Renew. With almost 700 million iPhones sold (roughly 1/3 of them within 2015) and more than a billion gadgets in use, it seems that Apple is is going very seriously to the recycling challenge.
This is highlighted by Apple’s new invention, a new robot called Liam. Liam is a large-scale robot, with 29 freestanding robotic arms at various skill stations. But while most assembly-line robots help put together products you’ll one day hold in your hands, Liam’s sole purpose in life is to dismantle old iPhones as quickly as possible. Even though Liam is new, he’s capable of taking apart 1.2 million iPhones in a year. By taking apart we means carefully extracting each part of the device and separating them into different piles of components before they are shipped off to be reused.
This movement means that Apple can handle more than 100 million iPhones per year with just 80-84 robots. The benefits for the company (who is not famous for its environmental performance) will be important, as recent reports assess the gold recovered in 2015 to about 2,204 pounds (1 ton) and the recovered silver to 6,612 pound ( 3 tons).
You can see Liam in action here. I think that Liam is one of the first robots that will help us tackle the huge problem of e-waste worldwide, in a completely different way than we thought up to now. With robotics, the dismantling of complex gadgets will become very easy, systematic and gradually much more cheaper than it is now. In this way, tech giants will recycle much more, even 100%, because in this way not only they will secure their supply chains, but they will also gain important profits (which is not the case today, for many products). So, maybe Liam symbolises the end of e-waste within next 10-15 years.
The fourth industrial revolution provides new, unimaginable solutions and opportunities for a Wasteless Future. Are we capable to utilise them for a better world with less inequality and environmental problems or the exponential technologies will be used to concentrate more wealth to even less hands and destroy the lives of hundreds of millions? The answer is still up to all of us.