Apple is promising more eco-friendly batteries ahead of Earth Day. The company has committed to using 100 percent recycled cobalt in all Apple-designed batteries by 2025. It also expects to use completely recycled rare earth elements in its magnets by that point, and all in-house circuit board designs will use fully recycled gold plating and tin soldering.
Only 25 percent of the cobalt Apple used last year was recycled. While thats's up from 13 percent in 2021, that makes the new target more ambitious than others. Apple already uses 73 percent recycled rare earth elements and 38 percent recycled tin. Apple has custom battery designs in most of its portable products, including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook lines.
The company eventually hopes to make all products exclusively with recycled and renewable materials. It expects its products to be carbon neutral by 2030. As of 2022, just 20 percent of the material in Apple hardware was recycled or renewed.
Yes, this is partly about burnishing the company's image. You may be more likely to buy an iPhone or Apple Watch if you believe it's relatively gentle on the planet. However, the cobalt goal may be more significant than most. Cobalt is widely used in batteries, including in electric vehicles, but it also has significant environmental and social problems. The mining process contaminates the air, earth and water, and can lead to health issues for both miners and the general population. There are also concerns about miner exploitation in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Companies have been developing cobalt-free batteries that could lessen the environmental impact across the tech industry. For now, though, efforts like Apple's could reduce the demand for additional cobalt and the associated mining.