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Apple's AirPods Can Be Notoriously Difficult To Recycle

( [email protected] ) Dec 30, 2016 10:35 AM EST
If you make your purchase decisions based on how easy it is to recycle your purchases afterwards, then you might want to think twice before picking up a pair of the AirPods from Apple.
The customers who have managed to pre-order within hours of the AirPods' release on Apple's online store have apparently received shipping confirmations. Their wireless headphones are expected to arrive by Dec. 21, as initially promised by the tech company. Maurizio Pesce via Flickr

You are a well informed consumer, and make careful considerations before arriving at a purchase for obvious reasons. Other than making sure you get the best value for money for the item bought, you would also like to ensure that it has a good impact on the environment -- from before it was made, to the manufacturing process, as well as how easy it is to recycle said product afterwards. Consumer electronics can be a rather challenging aspect although there has been attempts at ideas such as recyclable watches in the past from Sprout, but what about earbuds and earphones? Apple’s relatively new AirPods might be fancy and futuristic in their outlook and pack quite a performance, but it seems that they are notoriously difficult to recycle.

This can be attributed to the small lithium batteries that are already glued in, according to Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit. Such a discovery is certainly a step backward for Cupertino, as Apple has been on a path to promote the company as being more environmentally conscious. In the past, Apple’s devices were manufactured in such a way that the components are rather challenging to disassemble for recycling purposes, so this image for the company after having come under fire in the past for constructing its devices so tightly that their components can be difficult to cost-effectively disassemble for recycling.

The AirPods might tip the scales at a very lightweight 4 grams, being wireless headphones to serve your mobile lifestyle, but the presence of lithium batteries that are glued within make the recycling effort difficult to say the least, once you are done with them. Wiens shared, "They're basically saying this is the future of headphones." With an estimated 1.4 billion pairs of iPhone and iPod headphones sold to date, and that the new generation iPhone 7 shipping without any kind of traditional headphone jack, the AirPods could very well be the future that Apple is undertaking where headphones are concerned. If the same kind of design and form factor continues, there might also be another billion of difficult wireless headphones to recycle down the road.

According to Apple, the $159 AirPods are eligible for the recycling program when you return them to Apple, although there was no elaboration on how the recycling process for the AirPods would work. For the layperson, having glued on batteries already make it difficult in the first place since you will need to isolate the batteries before recycling the plastic parts.

Each pair of AirPods will come with a trio of lithium-ion batteries, where there will be one in each pod, while another one lies in the charging case. Normally, wired headphones can be shredded before being sent over to a smelter so that the copper within can be retrieved. However, with lithium-ion batteries in the AirPods, no shredding is possible since a fire could break out during the process. AirPods also carry regulatory markings which mentioned that they should not be thrown away in the trash, and if you ever want to dispose of it, do so as electronics waste.

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