Apple’s new lawsuit with a recycling firm in Canada has revealed this tech giant’s own treachery regarding its recycling procedures.
In early October 2020, Apple had filed a lawsuit against Canadian recycling firm GEEP for contract breach, as the latter sold at least 100,000 old Apple devices including iPhone and iPad – which were supposed to go to landfills.
Apple also requested for a 23 million USD compensation from GEEP. The lawsuit had reached Canadian court since January 2020, but was only recently revealed – after 9 months. Many questions had since been raised concerning the giant’s not-so-environmentally-friendly practices.
Apple is going against its own words
For a long time, Apple always talk about how the firm does not tolerate destruction of equipment that are still in accordance with usage standards. Its complaint against GEEP also claimed its shipments to have been “repaired”. However, the firm never went to details about repairments there were and which problems incurred the repairments, nor did it agree to disclose the status of the devices sent to GEEP.
Rosenstock’s email claimed that Apple devices “has got the longest life cycle out there”, and the company is always trying to refurbish “as many safe devices there are every year, and over 10 million were recycled in 2019 alone.” He also affirmed that Apple only destroyed its devices should they fail to meet the industry’s safety and quality protocols, and no material from Apple products will be dumped after recycling.
“This is absolutely amazing. All of Apple’s treacheries are coming into light. They brag about recycling in all of their environment reports, but then sue their recycling partner for not destroying perfectly usable devices,” said Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit, in his astonisment regarding Apple’s GEEP lawsuit.
Court records show that GEEP is denying the accusation, claiming that a group of employees is responsible for such mishap. The company had fired and sued the aforementioned individuals, and no further comments were given.
Apple and GEEP law representatives refused to share about the devices at the heart of this lawsuit, giving no comments regarding the matter.
During the previous years, the tech giant is constantly promoting its efforts to save the environment like: introducing a recycle robot, recycle waste aluminium in laptops. A recent announcement also shared the firm’s plan to reduce all its damaging carbon waste by 2030. Apple even stopped shipping electronic chargers with Apple Watch in order to reduce waste, and is even predicted to stop attaching earbuds/chargers in the newer versions of iPhone.
“Your device can still be used even after you stopped using it. If it still works well, then we will find it a new owner. If not, we will send it to our recycling partners,” said Apple’s trade-in-sale policy as announced on the firm’s website.
However, in 2017, an investigation by the tech news site Motherboard had revealed that Apple outsourced the destruction of old devices, and banned recycling agencies from using its leftover materials.
Rosenstock refused to disclose the amount Apple sent to partners for “processing” and the amount the firm supposedly recycled on its own terms. According to him, recycling at Apple is done by the giant’s Daisy and Dave robots, which can detach 200 iPhones per hour, and collect more material than any other recycling partners. The Apple representative continued to maintain his silence upon asked of the firm’s standards for evaluation of its devices’ status.
Airing its own dirty linen in public
Smartphone production has always been detrimental to the environment. A Greenpeace reported had pointed out that, from 2007 to 2016, smartphone manufacturing had spent 968 terawatt hours of energy, which is equivalent to the total energy consumption of the 1.35 billion people in India. Electronics also require valuable resources like rare soil, which mining processes often conjure with human rights issues, underground water pollution, and contamination of other resources.
The recycling of old electronic devices is thus regarded as a good solution, and yet was rarely done, according to experts in the industry. Apple, thus, will never disclose its actual recycling figures.
Gary Cook, campaign director at the environment organization Stand.Earth, expressed that via the GEEP suit, Apple is airing its own dirty linen in public. According to him, it is a “once in a lifetime” source of information.
“They only care about their sales, and never about encouraging users to continue using their old phones,” said Cook.
Many others, along with Cook, also believe that Apple is forcing its customers to upgrade as soon as possible. Unlike other manufacturers, it is very hard to replace or refurbish the battery, memory, and display of Apple devices.
In its claim against GEEP, Apple said that it detected mobile connection in many devices of the 100,000 shipment. Instead of destroying these products, some GEEP employees had secretly swindled them out and faked their records. The majority of these devices was apparently sent to China.
Apple believes that the actual figures may surpass the number detected.
Court records revealed that GEEP had opened an internal investigation, at the same time admitted that the shipment was reused. However, John Longo, GEEP’s lawyer, refused to disclose if these devices had been repaired or had safety issues.
“These types of contract are always driving the recyclers mad. They do not want to destroy all the hardware,” an iFixit representative shared.
But Apple is not the only one destroying perfectly usable devices. Many anonymous recyclers said that tech firms hesitate to recycle old products, afraid that it will make their new models hard to sell and lower the brand’s luxury level.
However, many destroy faulty products to avoid the eye of the public, like in the case of Samsung’s recent exploding batteries. Others meanwhile decide to go away with old products as they contain personal information of previous owners, despite many efforts to rectify this issue.
“We have developed products as effective as complete annihilation, and yet there are not as many data deletion requests ass we had expected. If only the rate of those contracts can always be 100%,” said Craig Boswell, co-founder and president of the electronic recycling firm Hobi International.
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