Before turning to the expected round of product announcements at today’s Apple event, held at the company’s campus in Cupertino, Calif., Apple introduced a technical development that won’t be a product anytime soon: Liam, the recycling robot.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, said that though Apple’s track record of reusing iPhones that are exchanged for upgrades is good, the company recognized that eventually, these things can’t be reused. Therefore, she indicated, Apple decided to up its recycling game. The company’s engineers in Silicon Valley developed a recycling robot, named Liam, that recognizes all the key parts on an iPhone, takes the handset apart, and pulls out the most valuable materials, including cobalt, lithium, gold, copper, silver, platinum, and tungsten.
With a team of Liams in place, ready to mine phones for precious metals, Jackson announced a free recycling program for iPhones. Customers can drop the phones at Apple stores, or print a prepaid mailing label at home. She urged customers to recycle devices in a way that is “safe for data and safe for the planet,” and will keep a little Liam and his friends busy.
Later in the event, Siri was asked “How do you feel about recycling?” She wisecracked, “I love the Apple renew program, but Liam really tears me apart.”
Check out Liam in this video from Apple:
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.