Every year, around 151 million Apple products are thrown away. This is because they are made explicitly hard to repair, and the constant production of new products encourages Apple users to discard their old products and buy the new ones to keep up with the trend. Nearly every year, Apple makes a new Macbook, a new iPhone, a new iPad, and pretty much a new version of every product that they’ve made. Also, because Apple doesn’t carry replacement parts, most repair is done by third-party companies. In addition, although Apple claims it runs on 100% renewable energy, many third-party companies that manufacture Apple products don’t. As a result, because of their limited repairability, and therefore the encouraged discarding of old Apple products, greater e-waste is being contributed by Apple, and although Apple claims to have good environmental initiatives, it might not be as green as it seems.
Apple products are very hard to fix once they are broken. Many parts are glued together, making them hard to dissect when trying to replace parts that can no longer function. One example is the 2013 Retina Macbook Pro. According to David Veksler, the Director of Technology at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), “It has non-upgradable solid state drive and memory that is soldered to the mainboard, the battery is firmly glued in place, the display assembly is bonded into a single unit, and proprietary pentalobe screws discourage me from opening it at all.” While all this wording may seem complicated, Mr. Veksler’s point is easy to understand: the design of Apple products discourage breaking them up and/or repairing them. For example, if your battery got damaged, it would be very tedious to take it out and replace it. But, Apple does have its reasons for doing this.
It is often easier to design computers the way Apple is: bonding multiple components together. This is because If they bond parts together, it could provide modular advantage, and their employees don’t have to carry replacement parts or need to be trained for repairs. However, sometimes pieces are bonded together even when no modular advantage. Also, if you were to take apart your Apple device, it would void your warranty, which would be considered a risky move for most consumers. This lessens the amount of people that are willing to attempt to dissect Apple products even more, to the point that Apple wouldn’t profit much if they sold replacement parts. Finally, the fact that Apple makes its products hard to repair encourages Apple users to discard their old products to buy new ones.
When a new Apple product is released, consumers are lured to buy it. Many will want it because they feel like their old products are out of date, but a lot of this also has to do with Apple products’ limited reparability, life, and durability. Because the typical consumer doesn’t have contact to third-party repair shops, and because Apple doesn’t carry replacement parts, most consumers’ only choice when it comes to a broken iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, or any hardware problems, is to straight-up buy a new device. Here is Mr. Veksler’s experience: “I replaced [my old computer] in 2016, only three years later because I had filled up the hard drive and decided to upgrade to a new computer. My new, maxed-out MacBook Pro with Touch Bar cost just about $3,000.” Just think about that $3,000, invested just because your hard drive was maxed out. Most hard drives cost no more than a few hundred dollars! As you can see, this scam results in more profit for Apple. Although Apple does care about the environment, they clearly care about profit more.
Each year, around 150 million Apple products are thrown away, mostly because of the open-looped flow of products, detailed above, in which products are tossed rather than recycle and reused. An even more appalling fact is that last year, Apple made around 265.6 billion dollars, yet they didn’t use a whole lot of that to help the environment. Clearly, they could have invested money into reducing their e-waste (e.g. making hardware that is easier to repair), but they really haven’t. Also, not only is Apple dishonest in their sales, they are dishonest in their claims, too.
Perhaps you have heard about how Apple runs on 100% renewable energy. “We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work, we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.” This is partly true, but again, Apple is lying. Although nearly all of Apple’s in-house operations are running on 100% renewable energy, many third-party factories which manufacture Apple products do not. Although Apple has initiated a Supplier Clean Energy program, Apple relies on more than 200 manufacturers, and only a fraction of them have reached the goal of running on 100% renewable energy, and around a quarter and at most half are aiming for it. According to Harry Domanski at Techradar (Of April 2018), “The 23 suppliers that are currently on board represent a promising start to the program, but Apple will need to do more than ‘drive broader awareness’ and ‘empower suppliers to set goals’ if it wants to incentivize the uptake of the program to the remaining 200 odd suppliers and, ultimately, reduce the 21,175 million metric tons of carbon emissions that the manufacturing process produces.” This means that, although Apple has good intentions, it needs to find a better way to make people believe them than lying or telling half-truths.
Apple’s failed efforts to make dishonest profits, and even worse, their efforts to cover them up with lies, does not bode well for the reputation of the company. If Apple really does have good intentions, it shouldn’t be putting its own profit above the need to consumers, and need not cover their circumstances and actions up with lies and half-truths. However, I am glad to say, for the sake of Apple, that they are improving. They created Daisy, a replacement for Liam, which is a robot that can take apart recycled iPhones in order to reuse parts. They also created an all-aluminum Macbook, which is very eco-friendly, and have recycling centers for used devices. Although much e-waste is still being contributed by Apple, and although they still have a huge carbon footprint in manufacturing, if Apple keeps going like this, they will probably be one of the greenest companies on Earth. Unlike other companies, Apple is not stagnant, and is learning to grow and develop to become more and more eco-friendly, such that there will be a day when Apple’s bad reputation is no more. But for now, they still have work to do.