How Does The New iPhone 13 Fare In Apple’s Sustainability Efforts?

Source: Apple

In line with Apple’s continued sustainability efforts, the company has recently announced that its new iPhone 13 box will no longer come with an outer plastic wrap, preventing 600 metric tons of plastic from going to waste. Though the change may break consumers’ expectations of the unboxing experience, which usually involves breaking the seal and unwrapping the device, the company stated that reducing plastic in the product’s packaging is a part of its efforts to address climate change.

“We take responsibility for our products throughout their life cycles—including the materials they are made of, the people who assemble them, and how they are recycled at end of life. And we focus on the areas where we can make the biggest difference for our planet: reducing our impact on climate change, conserving important resources, and using safer materials,” the company wrote in an iPhone 13 environmental report.

Working towards eliminating plastic from all packaging by 2025, Apple removed the outer plastic wrap and reconfigured the packaging with a seal that protects the smartphone during shipment. While many brands attempt to use plant-based plastic or recycled plastic in their packaging, it is refreshing to see Apple leapfrog to removing it all together – especially for the problematic plastic wrap, that is not recyclable or has very limited recycling in many countries. 95% of the iPhone 13 packaging is fibre-based and 67% of the fibre packaging is recycled while all of the virgin wood fibre is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

The company used at least 35% recycled plastic in 12 components of the smartphone – but one point that was emphasised by the company is how iPhone 13 has antenna lines made of upcycled plastic bottles transformed into “higher-performance material”. Even though this may seem gimmicky, any minor improvement can translate to tonnes of virgin material use avoided cumulatively in a company the size of Apple.

The iPhone 13 — produced with Apple’s goal to, someday, source only recycled or renewable materials in mind — became the company’s first product to use 100% certified recycled gold, specifically in the plating of the device’s main logic board. Aside from recycled gold, the new smartphone is made with 99% recycled tungsten and 98% recycled rare earth elements.

The recycled tungsten is used in the phone’s Taptic Engine, while magnets like those found in MagSafe are made of recycled rare earth elements. Meanwhile, the solder of the smartphone’s main logic board and the battery management unit is constructed out of 100% recycled tin.

With tech companies driving the demand for rare earth minerals often being the subject of controversy due to the devastating impacts in water and soil pollution and human health linked to their mining – this is a step in the right direction.

Apple also stated that traded-in devices will be recycled or given a new life for free. However, to make real strides in sustainability, we have yet to see companies boldly pushing for the longevity of their products instead of accelerating consumption patterns where yearly upgrades are the norm.

Better repair accessibility and enabling consumers to practice good use habits and extend the lifespans of our devices are still not a focus. We cannot deny that the omnipresence of tech in our modern lives has an outsized impact to our planet, so the environmentally driven choice actually comes down to the use cycle of the iPhone – by not having to replace a phone so often.

This piece was originally published on

Written by Melissa Tan and Sophia Lopez

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