appleOn Monday April 21, Apple announced a new initiative. As a part of a broader marketing focus on the environmental impact of Apple, or rather the lack thereof, the Cupertino company announced that, “every Apple Retail Store will now take back Apple products for free and recycle them responsibly.”1 Not only will they take back any and all Apple products – and some PCs apparently – but if the product you are recycling is on the newer side, the company will give you an Apple Store Gift Card:

Turn that iPhone, iPad, or computer — Mac or PC — you’re not using anymore into something brand new. Send it to us and we’ll determine if it qualifies for reuse. If it does, that means your device has monetary value that we’ll apply to an Apple Store Gift Card, which you can use for purchases at any Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store.2

Further, Apple claims that 90% of the electronics that collect and recycle across the world are not Apple products:

In regions where we don’t have take?back programs with physical drop?off/pickup locations, we arrange for pickup, transport, and environmentally sound recycling of electronics. And it’s not just Apple products that we recycle at these events. In fact, over 90 percent of the products we collect and recycle are not our own.3

This is all well and good, and is certainly a worthwhile initiative, but the motivations are, clearly, more than just simple altruism. Apple products make use of several incredibly rare materials – such as neodymium, europium, cerium to name a few.4 The rarity of these and other materials make the buyback/recycling a win-win for Apple. The company is able bolster and market its environmental record, while at the same time recovering incredibly rare materials.

Apple released the below video to show us all how awesome and environmentally friendly they are:

  1. Lisa Jackson – Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, Apple Environmental Responsibility, “Our Progress,” April 2014  
  2. Apple Recycling Program  
  3. Apple Environment, “Finite Resources,”  
  4. Jay Greene, CNET, “Digging for rare earths: The mines where iPhones are born,” 26 September 2012.