At its media event on Monday, Apple kicked off by discussing its efforts to reduce waste and improve its renewable energy infrastructure, marking a heightened focus on the company's environmental responsibilities.
As part of the presentation, the company also unveiled a robotic system it has developed that can disassemble old iPhones and recover recyclable materials.
The robot, called 'Liam', was introduced in a video showing how it deftly deconstructs an iPhone in order to repurpose a range of materials.
Liam is seen in the video rescuing cobalt and lithium from the battery, separating gold and copper from the camera, and extracting silver and platinum from the main logic board.
Apple revealed that the Liam system went into full-capacity service last month after nearly three years in development. It consists of 29 robotic modules on a single site near Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, and is capable of taking apart an iPhone every 11 seconds. A second robot is being installed in Europe.
The company said that Liam will initially focus on recycling junked iPhone 6 handsets, but Apple plans to modify and expand the system to deconstruct different models and recover more resources.
The robot appears to be a response to criticisms that components used in Apple's devices can be difficult to disassemble, refurbish and reuse. However, according to Reuters, Liam can likely handle no more than a few million phones per year, which is a small fraction of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.
Greenpeace welcomed Apple's initiative as a good example of the company's environmental commitments, but the group questioned how much of an impact the Liam robot would actually have on overall iPhone recycling volumes. The bulk of discarded iPhones go through independent e-waste recyclers, which will not have access to Liam.
"If it's easy for a robot, that's great," said Greenpeace IT analyst Gary Cook, speaking to Reuters. "But making it easier for a human, who will be doing most of this, is part of the solution."
Last May, Apple received a perfect scorecard in Greenpeace's Clean Energy Index report, topping Amazon, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Yahoo for its commitment to renewable energy initiatives.
Yesterday's media event also saw the debut of new products, including the iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and new Apple Watch updates.
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