Apple has fired back over a Motherboard report that focused on their AirPods’ environmental impact as a “disposable” device.
The Motherboard article was scathing, accusing Apple of marketing a product the runs counter to the company’s eco-conscious image, calling AirPods “a tragedy.”
Even if you only own AirPods for a few years, the earth owns them forever. When you die, your bones will decompose in less than a century, but the plastic shell of AirPods won’t decompose for at least a millennium. Thousands of years in the future, if human life or sentient beings exist on earth, maybe archaeologists will find AirPods in the forgotten corners of homes. They’ll probably wonder why they were ever made, and why so many people bought them. But we can also ask ourselves those same questions right now.
Why did we make technology that will live for 18 months, die, and never rot?
AirPods are not designed to be serviceable. The whole shebang is held together with glue, and Apple’s wireless earbuds cannot be opened without damaging them. When they finally begin to lose their ability to hold a charge, they must be replaced, as they cannot be repaired.
(It should be noted that while the Motherboard article mentions 18 months as when the AirPods begin to lose their ability to hold a charge, in my experience over the last two years, I haven’t experienced any issues with the bud holding a charge. I’ve even ran my AirPods through a wash and dry cycle in my jeans pocket.)
Apple reluctantly spoke with OneZero, and didn’t deny that AirPods are not designed to be repairable or that the batteries do degrade over time. However, the Cupertino firm did defend itself over reports that such issues are specific to AirPods or that the accessories somehow have more environmental impact than larger electronics.
Apple pointed out that its own recycling program has accepted the wireless earbuds since the product’s 2016 debut.
It also connected the publication with recycling partner Wistron GreenTech, which confirmed the recycling process requires disassembly by workers using hand tools to remove critical components from the polycarbonate shell. The battery and drivers are shipped to smelters and refiners to extract materials like cobalt.
Wistron admitted the cost of the recycling process was higher than the value of the materials obtained from the process. Apple pays the firm to make up the difference. Apple says it is working on making the recycling process more streamlined.