Apple Shares Meticulous Steps Taken to Ensure iPhone Packaging is Environmentally Friendly

Apple has shared a new Paper and Packaging Strategy white paper, outlining steps the company takes to reduce its paper impact by using paper more efficiently, sourcing it responsibly, and protecting or creating sustainable working forests.

iphone 7 packaging

iPhone 7 packaging

To protect the environment for the future, Apple said three priorities guide its efforts:

1. Reduce impact on climate change by using renewable energy sources and driving energy efficiency in products and facilities.

2. Conserve precious resources by using materials efficiently, using more recycled and renewable content in products, and recovering material from products at the end of their life.

3. Identify, develop, and utilize safer materials in products and processes.

The change in iPhone packaging from iPhone 6s to iPhone 7 illustrates the significant impact of Apple's efforts.

iphone packaging chart
While the iPhone 6s packaging included two stacked plastic trays that hold the device and accessories separately, Apple came up with a new design for the iPhone 7 packaging that allows a single tray to do the work of two. Eliminating the second tray significantly reduced the packaging's material footprint.

Apple's environmental teams also found a fiber-based material that could be used to make the trays, replacing the petroleum-based plastic previously used. The white paper says a similar exploration of new materials and design led to innovations in the EarPods carrier, further reducing the use of materials.

For the iPhone 6s, Apple designed a plastic EarPods carrying case that discreetly wraps the cables and holds the headphones in place. For the iPhone 7, however, Apple developed a more environmentally friendly paperboard-based solution with a set of folds and cuts that secure the EarPods and cable.

These changes contributed to an 84 percent decrease in plastic usage for iPhone 7 packaging compared with iPhone 6s, according to Apple.

For the iPhone 8, Apple even sourced a more environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic wrap that protects the iPhone's wall charger. Apple's white paper reveals the meticulous steps it took to achieve this feat, which involved working directly with a supplier to alter aspects of the manufacturing process.

Finding a fiber alternative proved challenging since fiber naturally expands and contracts with changes in humidity. The significant number of suppliers and locations through which the power adapter wrap would pass made controlling the humidity of the environment impossible. This required Apple to take a very hands-on approach, working directly with the supplier to alter aspects of the manufacturing process to create a fiber wrap that would meet technical needs. While the power adapter wrap is a small piece of the iPhone packaging, it represents a significant amount of material given the number of iPhone units sold.

Ultimately, Apple said it hopes that its program highlights a process for others to take responsibility for their impact on global resources, and work with external stakeholders to protect the environment.

Top Rated Comments

udayan81 Avatar
87 months ago
We live in an era where tons and tons of electronics are thrown to garbage which are non biodegradable, and yet we worry about the environmental friendliness of a cardboard box.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
44267547 Avatar
87 months ago
We live in an era where tons and tons of electronics are thrown to garbage which are non biodegradable, and yet we worry about the environmental friendliness of a cardboard box.
But you still have one company (Apple) that's taking measures to think about the environment and what they can do to be proactive about it. Apple can't change the world, but they can change their own practices and methods of altering their packaging contents.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oodsigma Avatar
87 months ago
I can see that they’re going for environmentally friendly and that’s great, but I always keep my ear pods in the plastic case that came with my 6S, keeps them clean and tidy in my bag.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jmgregory1 Avatar
87 months ago
What I think is funny is the fact that a lot of people hold onto their Apple packaging. I've got a closet filled with iPhone, Airport, trackpad, keyboard, MacBook Air, rMBP, iPad, etc. boxes that I just can't bring myself to recycling. I've been in the packaging industry, so some of my desire to keep them is based around having great examples of what's possible in rigid packaging, but I also like having them for their historical significance.

So whether Apple uses all green materials (paper) or plastic, doesn't matter for me as much because they're not going to be recycled or thrown away (until I'm 80+ years old and it the closet will look like I'm some hoarder of Apple products - which I am...).
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Santabean2000 Avatar
87 months ago
Now if Apple would make something less appliance like and more modular (repairable), then we might have a discussion.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
reallynotnick Avatar
87 months ago
I was really impressed in the packaging going from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 8. The one question I have is why does the brick even need a wrap at all? Is it more just for moving it through a factory and not getting it scratched? Because it would be totally fine in the box without a wrap I would assume?

I assume the remaining amount of plastic is mostly from the box outer wrapping and the phone wrapping. I'm guessing the boxes probably scuff up decently easy otherwise you could probably do some kind of paper pull tab to open up the box and the one on the phone is more to make unboxing videos fun because a paper wrap would hide the phone.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)