In a first, Apple has now started using recycled rare earth metals for making its latest iPhones. It is using 100 per cent recycled rare earths in a key component (Taptic Engine) in the new iPhones, a first for a smartphone. The Taptic Engine represents about 25 per cent of the total rare earth elements used in an iPhone.

“Our aim is to do what Apple does with every innovation, which is to do things that have never been done before and then use our scale in the marketplace and relationships with suppliers to bring that forward for the world,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice-President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

By using more recycled material, the firm does not mine from the earth. The company’s new product innovations will avoid mining more than 2,80,000 tonnes of aluminum-bearing bauxite and more than 34,000 tonnes of tin ore over the next year, Apple claimed.

“We’re the only ones in the world doing this work, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Jackson said.

Recycling valuable rare earth metals found in advanced electronics from smartphones to plasma screen TVs has been a challenge for both manufacturers and environmental groups. Rare earth metals are critical components in permanent magnets, electric vehicles and smartphones. The elements occur naturally as mixtures in ores and must be purified prior to use. However, the mining and separation of the mineral ore is challenging, in addition to being energy- and waste-intensive.

“”There is no better recycling in the world than reuse. This is the first time any recycled rare earth materials have been used in any smartphone,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice-President of Product Marketing.