Technology Apple pushes recycling with robot, but mined metals still needed
Dell pledges to make greener computers over the next decade
The company will tackle climate change and e-waste with new renewable pledgesWhen it comes to stemming the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change, Dell will source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040. (For comparison, Apple announced in 2018 that it uses 100 percent renewable energy.) Dell isn’t just switching to renewable sources; it’s also trying to use less energy. It plans to make its products more energy efficient and cut the emissions generated directly from its operations and its electricity usage in half by 2030. The company will work with other manufacturers to shave off emissions along its supply chain.
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Apple Inc is trying to change the way electronics are recycled with a robot that disassembles its iconic iPhone so that minerals can be recovered and reused, but rising global demand for electronics means new mines will still be needed by manufacturers.
The Cupertino, California-based company says the robot is part of its plan to become a "closed-loop" manufacturer that does not rely on the mining industry, an aggressive goal that some industry analysts have said is impossible.
Inside a nondescript warehouse on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, Apple's Daisy robot has been designed to break apart iPhones so that 14 minerals, including lithium, can be extracted and recycled.
Dell says it will power all of its facilities with renewable energy by 2040
Dell has announced new sustainability initiatives as part of the "Progress Made Real" plan the company shared on Tuesday. The centerpiece of the company's new climate change plan is to source 75 percent of the power for all of its facilities from renewables, and 100 percent by 2040. Dell also plans to make its supply chain and devices more energy efficient along the way. For comparison, Apple announced that as of last year all of its facilities were powered by renewables -- though it was able to achieve that milestone by taking advantage of carbon offsets and credits.
Apple is already using recycled aluminum, tin, cobalt and rare earths in some of its products, with plans to add to that list in coming years.
Daisy, less than 20 yards in length, uses a four-step process to remove an iPhone's battery with a blast of -80 Celsius (-176 Fahrenheit) degree air, and then pop out screws and modules, including the haptic monitor that makes a phone vibrate.
The components are then sent off to recyclers for the minerals to be extracted and refined. Daisy can tear apart 200 iPhones per hour. In 2017, the robot in Austin processed 1 million iPhones, Apple said.
Apple chose the iPhone to be the first of its products that Daisy would disassemble because of its mass popularity, said Lisa Jackson, the company's head of environment, policy and social initiatives.
Developers can now program the actions of Sony's robot dog Aibo
Aibo, the robotic dog by Sony, recently received a software update that lets developers customize the pup's actions. For years, Sony has been developing robot dogs that have the capacity to emulate the behavior of real pups. Last year, the sixth generation of Aibo went on sale in the US complete not only with pooch mannerisms, but also with AI and cloud-connected technology. Since this launch, Aibo has become as much of a house watchdog as a companion thanks to software updates that take advantage of the device's cameras and sensors to send owners live reports of their house while they're away.
Apple is considering sharing the Daisy technology with others, including electric automakers. Daisy does have its skeptics, including many in the tech world who see it primarily as a public relations stunt.
"There's this ego that believes they can get all their minerals back, and it's not possible," said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, a firm dedicated to repairing rather than discarding iPhones and other electronics.
That may partially explain why the mining industry isn't worried.
"Apple is in an enviable position, because they can do this," said Tom Butler, president of the International Council on Mining and Metals, an industry trade group. "Not everyone else will be able to follow suit."
Many mining executives also note that with the rising popularity of electric vehicles, newly mined minerals will be needed in even larger scale, a reality that Apple acknowledges.
"We're not necessarily competing with the folks who mine," said Apple's Jackson, who ran the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama. "There's nothing for miners to fear in this development."
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Stephen Nellis; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Energy transition: a new dependence on metals
The decarbonization of the economy is a widely accepted objective today. But for Florian Fizaine, research engineer and economist at the University of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, decarbonization of the energy mix is not necessarily the best solution to achieve this. "Given the quantitative and qualitative development of demand, this decarbonization cannot be done with nuclear power alone, it will also be necessary to develop renewable energies", he observes. Now, reduced to the kilowatt hour produced, they consume significantly more metals than conventional energies. Solar, wind, geothermal or even hydroelectricity require more metals than coal and even more than nuclear. Even if the latter remains a heavy consumer of rare metals.
“There are two issues, specifies Florian Fizaine. On the one hand, the intensity of green energies in raw materials, but also the specificity of the metals necessary to meet these new needs.
15 years before being able to operate a mine
In addition, for some of these metals,. "Batteries incorporate both rare metals such as lithium and other more conventional metals, such as copper and cobalt," points out Florian Fizaine. The latter are recovered, but not the lithium, which is present in too small a quantity and moreover in combination with other elements, which would make the cost of its recycling prohibitive. For this component, the ramp-up of electric vehicles is likely to be faster than the adaptability of mines. Tesla's gigafactory, the giant battery factory under construction in Nevada, alone could double the volume of the market. However, it takes at least 15 years before you can take full advantage of a mine. Those bought a few years ago in Bolivia by the Bolloré group are not yet operational.
In addition, certain metals essential for green energies are by-products of other metals. This is the case of indium, present in photovoltaic panels and flat screens. To make the necessary quantities, it would be necessary to increase exponentially the tonnages of zinc manufactured, which is of no interest to producers, but can on the contrary serve them, by lowering zinc prices.
New geographic concentration of resources
Consequently, and contrary to the basic principles of supply and demand, this foreseeable increase in demand, accompanied by an increase in prices, would not be followed by a fairly rapid adjustment of the offer.
This shortage of metals would present, economically and geopolitically, risks similar to those of current dependence on fossil fuels.
Or even more dangerous. Unlike the wholesale markets for hydrocarbons or even the most widespread metals (such as copper - 18 million tonnes sold per year - or zinc), those on which rare earths circulate such as lithium (25,000 tonnes per year) are just as volatile, but much more opaque. And these metals are partly held by politically sensitive countries. This new dependence would therefore reshuffle the cards, with an accentuation of the geographic concentration of the production of natural resources essential to the energy system. The countries holding these rare earths would capture this new rent which would replace the one now captured by the hydrocarbon producers, geographically less concentrated.
In this new energy landscape, China occupies a dominant place. It is indeed, on its territory that today a majority of rare earths are produced, a situation of which it is very jealous, refusing the entry of foreign companies on this market. And as the volume of its reserves could cause it to lose this hegemonic situation tomorrow, it is preparing by buying mines in other countries.
Europe, on the other hand, has chosen to let free competition play, at the risk of finding itself soon destitute and dependent.
Ways to lower demand
What to do with these prospects? In France, the BRGM (Bureau of Geological and Mining Research) proposes to act on supply, starting with carrying out a new inventory of the resources available on French and European soil. But this track, developed in the years of the rare earths boom in 2010/2012, is struggling to find the public funding necessary in the current period which sees the prices of raw materials depressed, against the backdrop of the economic crisis. Florian Fizaine calls “false good ideas” both the diversification of supply and strategic storage, expensive and difficult to maneuver (it is indeed a question of knowing how to anticipate the evolution of demand in detail and to buy metals from lowest price).
On the contrary, it favors all solutions that contribute to lowering demand, starting with sobriety and energy efficiency, making it possible to reduce energy consumption. But also, the search for alternative materials, better recycling, or even a diversification of the energy mix. Thus, using different technologies underlying the same energy would allow diversification of the raw materials necessary for their production.
Robot hand 'sweats' to stay cool .
Researchers from Cornell University have developed a robot hand that can "sweat" from tiny pores.Scientists have created a soft robot muscle that sweats to stay cool and mimics the movement of a hand.
Daisy the Robot recycles iPhones - Apple expands global recycling program as of 2019
Daisy, Apple's recycling robot, will now disassemble used iPhones returned to Best Buy in the US and KPN in the Netherlands. Apple announced a major ...
Meet Daisy, Apple's recycling machine where old iPhones find new life
Apple has unveiled Daisy, a new robot capable of disassembling 200 iPhones per hour and harvesting their reusable materials. https://abc7.la/2vvFxMI.