According to reports, the world throws away 20 to 50 million tons of e-waster every year! The typical recycling process involved the crushing of devices and then using magnets to separate the parts. Since all the components are then mangled together it makes separating them even further a lot more difficult, therefore hindering further recycling.
But now there may be a solution. Apple has been improving their green credentials for a number of years and for the last three years they have been quietly developing a dedicated 29 arm recycling robot which breaks down their cellphones in a clean and dignified manner. Liam, as the machine is called (because apparently it look slike a Liam), receives 40 iPhone 6's in one go and in a variety of ways dissembles the phone so that screws, glass screens, cases, SIM card slots and circuit boards can be sent to specialist companies for recycling.
After their exclusive look, this article in Mashable describes the whole process.
"The first robot removes each iPhone screen from the back casing. The pieces are transported via conveyor belt to another section where the battery is carefully removed. Batteries, which can be damaged or punctured during disassembly, are a health and safety issues for operators, but Liam takes the human element out of that risk.
Pieces are collected in various ways: The screws are sucked up into small tubes and are housed in a nearby container, while SIM card slots are dropped into a small bucket below the system. Each section has a small tablet display - which is, surprisingly, not an iPad - that tracks the internals of the robot and progress of devices that pass through; if there are issues removing a component (e.g., it gets stuck in the casing), a "failed attempt" message will show up here. Or if there's an issue with the battery's temperature being too high, the system will take note of it.
At some stations, robots worked in pairs; because some iPhones come back with corrosion, the first robots may try five times to remove a screw, while the second is free to move on to another task on the same device without slowing down the process. Apple claims that Liam yields a 97 percent success rate for removing each component.
Apple has optimized the line so if one robot breaks down, the entire process can continue for about 30 minutes until a backup occurs. If the issue isn't quickly fixable, an operator can temporarily step in to handle the task at that station while another engineer repairs the robot.
Liam completes an iPhone diassembly process every 11 seconds, with dozens running through the system at all times,. About 350 units are turned around each hour, equivalent to 1.2 million iPhones each year.
At present there are two Liams in the US with another being built in Germany, as the technology advances to be able to dismantle iPads, iPods and other iPhone models and other Apple devices it's likely that Apply with furtherenhence their green credentials by installing more of these machines around the world. While they haven;t decided to make the technical details of Liam public, apparently Apple wants the rest of the technology industry to follow suit and copy Liam. So once the system has been available for a few years maybe they'll release the technical specs and recycling of all of our e-waste will be more efficient and environmentally friendly.