The Rising

The Rising covers how changes in the environment impact business, politics, and technology.

Apple AirPods Are A Sustainability Disaster!

2 min read
apple airpods

As Apple AirPods have become a millennial status symbol, more and more individuals are purchasing the trendy wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, these stylish earbuds are not just unsustainable, but an environmental disaster.

The Apple AirPod Batteries

Apple AirPods hold their charge for about 18 months. After these 18 months are up, the lithium-ion batteries will slowly become less effective, and eventually, stop working altogether. Since the AirPods themselves are glued together, these batteries are not replaceable, and therefore will become useless.

Due to the fact that the lithium-ion batteries will catch fire if thrown away, they are not disposable. That is, if consumers toss their AirPods, they are likely to catch on fire. Although Apple wants to encourage AirPod recycling with packaging that displays a “do not landfill” icon, they are nearly impossible to recycle. After all, Apple glues their AirPod batteries together. Additionally, the cost of recycling glued plastic products is higher than the profit of recycling these products, and removing any non-recyclable component is impossible without destroying the recyclable plastic. This may seem like a fluke, but electronic manufacturers have been setting up non-recyclable electronics like this for ages.

Apple AirPods Difficult To Recycle

John Shegerian, CEO of ERI, one of the biggest e-waste recycling companies in the United States, claims that “[electronics] aren’t designed to be easy to recycle. Gluing products together, hiding the batteries away-that all makes recycling more difficult, less profitable, and more dangerous. Three things you don’t want recycling to be.”

Although Apple has created a recycling robot, its use cases are few and far between. Even if the robot were in use, it is unlikely that this would solve the e-waste epidemic. That’s because AirPod owners are unlikely to engage with Apple to recycle and will likely prefer trashing AirPods individually. So it’s unsurprising that consumers only recycle 15-20 percent of all e-waste.

Conclusions About The Apple AirPods

With the 1.4 billion pairs of earbuds Apple has sold, it’s clear the company knows how to make easily recyclable products. However, with products like AirPods, they simply disregard the environmental impact that their product has. Until Apple creates an easily understood recycling procedure for AirPods, the earbuds will continue to be an environmental catastrophe. Apple should be mindful of how AirPods impact the environment considering its existing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.