Apple says selling new iPhones without power adapters will save 861,000 tons of metal

The company highlighted carbon capture and energy efficiency in its 2021 Environmental Progress Report.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Apple says its decision to stop bundling power adapters with products such as the iPhone 12 will save 861,000 tons of copper, zinc and tin. The resulting smaller packaging for iPhone 12 allowed the company to ship the device more efficiently as well. Shipping pallets are each able to carry up to 70 percent more iPhone 12 boxes, according to Apple.

The company made the claims in its 2021 Environmental Progress Report, which covers the 2020 fiscal year. Last year, Apple reduced its CO2 emissions from 25.1 million tons in 2019 to 22.6 million. It also slashed energy use by 13.9 million kWh.

"As a company, we moved ahead with greater urgency than ever before to create a stronger, healthier future for our planet and her people," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives said in the report's opening letter. "In 2020, that meant real progress in our fight against climate change. Apple became carbon neutral for our worldwide operations, and we committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 for our entire footprint — from our supply chain to the use of the products we make. Those same products now use more recycled materials than ever, like the 40 percent recycled content in the MacBook Air with Retina display, and the 99 percent recycled tungsten we now use in iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6."

The report notes the work taking place at Apple's Material Recovery Lab in Texas to recover materials such as rare earth elements, steel, and tungsten from recycled iPhones. Apple says that one metric ton of components that its disassembly robot Daisy removes from iPhones has as much gold and copper as 150 metric tons of mined ore. The company also said that 39,000 metric tons of e-waste was kept away from landfill last year.

Apple's M1 chip is designed to be more power efficient, and the company says using the processor in the Mac Mini cut down the system's overall carbon footprint by 34 percent. Meanwhile, due in part to switching to a more energy-efficient power adaptor, the 8th-generation iPad requires 66 percent less energy than the Energy Star rating requirement, Apple claims. Over the last 12 years, Apple has reduced average energy use in its products by over 70 percent.

The efforts extend to Apple's supply chain, where more than 110 suppliers have committed to using clean energy. As of December, over 90 percent had installed tech to reduce F-GHG emissions linked with display panel assembly by over 90 percent.

The report touches on some initiatives that were already known, such as Apple data centers having long run entirely on renewable electricity and a recent investment of $200 million to remove CO2 from the atmosphere through carbon capture. Still, it's a useful insight into the progress Apple is making on the environmental front.

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