In a world where each company is trying to beat out its competition with all kinds of marketing tactics, you’ll find yourself hearing about waste mitigation and donation for the most part. Technology companies sell you their products by promoting their reduction of e-waste (electronic waste).
E-waste represents 2% of American trash but equals 70% of overall toxic waste. Apple wants to reduce the 20 to 50 million metric tons of global e-waste disposed of annually by making its products carbon neutral by 2030. They state they were already carbon neutral in 2020, but their factory friends in China are not. TSMC and Foxconn—Apple producers in China—still get about 90% of their power from non-renewable sources. Apple has started to use biodegradable packaging, but their tech production uses non-renewable energy.
If you use anything other than an iPhone, you’ll notice that its charger only works with a few Apple products and nothing else. Apple uses the more advanced and popular USB Type-C connector on its Mac, Macbook, iPad, and many other devices except for the iPhone. Apple keeps the lightning charger on the iPhone because they own it and the iPhone is their best-selling product, selling over $140 billion in 2019 and making the company half its annual profits. Apple owns lightning charging, so it would not make sense to get rid of their licensed charging since it makes them lots of money.
Apple uses the MFi program—made for iPhone/iPad/iPod—to license third-party hardware and software that work with Apple products. Apple, in turn, gathers fees from MFi users and controls the tech market. Apple reasons that switching to USB Type-C would increase the e-waste, but it would mean that Apple loses out on money.
Recently, The European Union decided that it only allows USB Type-C chargers, which mostly hurts Apple because it means that they cannot sell their lightning products—iPhone, AirPods—or chargers there. Speculators believe Apple will switch to fully wireless charging rather than redesigning its iPhone to accommodate USB Type-C charging.
Apple already implemented Qi wireless charging and now has MagSafe. Both are inefficient in charging speed and energy use. In 2017, Apple unveiled Qi charging on their iPhone, and everyone was shocked, believing that Apple was doing something incredible with their new iPhone 8. However, it was first invented in 2008 and later mass-produced in 2012 with the Nokia Lumia 920.
Their new MagSafe charging is not good either. Both styles of wireless charging create a lot of heat, which deteriorates iPhone hardware and battery, making it less efficient and more prone to issues. MagSafe can deteriorate the iPhone battery in just a few months. Also, putting credit cards, security badges, passports or key fobs between your iPhone and MagSafe Charger might damage magnetic strips or RFID chips in those items. Radio Frequency Identification chips are used for contactless authentication—for toll booths, transit passes, passports, and contactless entry keys.
How I'd Fix Their Problem:
Apple needs to drop the lightning charger to meet its sustainability pledge. They also need to give up the wireless charging schtick. They already use the USB Type-C charger on half of their devices, so switching over to only using USB Type-C would not be so bad. Also, USB Type-C has better use than lighting and does not exclude all of the Apple competition. Apple will always have competition, so if we stuck to one charger that all tech companies could use, that would be more sustainable and reduce e-waste.
Apple should also invest in renewable energy for charging their devices. They are very invested in wireless charging and they advocate for the environment. These are two very different things since wireless charging wastes energy and creates e-waste faster by destroying the iPhone battery. Their products are part of the environmental problem since they require energy charging, and Apple does not advocate for charging with renewable energy.
Rather than selling a new external magnet battery with each iPhone— energy inefficient, annoying to use, and costly—they should be selling plug-in solar power banks. This transition towards renewable energy for their products would show that Apple is advocating for the environment, and their products energy charging would become more sustainable.
With climate change worsening and Chinese Apple producers not using renewable energy, Apple needs to work to maintain its environmental pledge. Apple is a very influential company because they affect how people feel about new technology through its ecosystem. The Apple ecosystem makes their products easy to use and connect with their other devices. When Apple releases a new product, customers become more open to using the tech and might see it as something practical. Wireless headphones and smartwatches are now casual wear for customers because Apple normalized it when they launched the AirPods and Apple Watch. If they included solar power banks in their product line and advertised them with new Apple products, they would open the door for customers who are afraid of investing in renewable energy and attract customers toward their brand. This strategy would make Apple more money, put Apple in a better light, and be more supportive of our environment.