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September 12, 2017

Can We Make New Phones from Nothing But Old Ones?

As if saying hello, the robot arm waves an iPhone at you. Then, in a few swift maneuvers, the arm and a suite of machinery begin dismantling the phone. First goes the outer casing. Next are the screws and other metal parts, dropping into neat piles. Meet Liam, says the voice-over on Apples promotional video. Like most things from Apple, Liam looks pretty cool.

Liam is a robot29 robots working in concert, to be precisewhose job is to take apart iPhones. Apple unveiled the system last year in a bid to more efficiently recycle used phones. But recently, Liam has become part of an even more ambitious plan announced in April: eventually, Apple wants to make new products using only recycled products.
Ideally, that means all your old Apple stuff would eventually become new Apple stuff. There would be no waste and no need to mine for more materials. Such an idea is called a closed-loop supply chain, part of a concept also referred to as a circular economy or a cradle-to-cradle philosophy, which considers the entire lifecycle of a product and was popularized by the architect and designer William McDonough.

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