A big problem with modern smartphones is that they’re sealed units and can’t be taken apart for recycling. Right? Wrong. At least, that is, for Apple’s recycling robot, Liam.
Liam can take an iPhone apart in just 11 seconds. Watch this video to see how it works:
Liam has been in development for nearly three years and at this stage can only handle the iPhone 6, separating out the valuable internal components made from gold, silver, aluminium, copper, tin, tungsten and cobalt.
The robot is designed to bolster Apple’s green credentials and answer the criticism levelled at all technology companies about the vast quantity of waste they generate - 41.8 million metric tons of the stuff around the world in 2014 alone.
Apple says Liam is also part of efforts to move towards a circular economy model, where materials are reused rather than thrown away. “We need more R&D if we are going to realise the idea of a circular economy in electronics,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.
While Liam’s current work rate may look speedy, a single robot can only handle a few million phones per year – a small fraction of the more than 200 million phones the company sold in 2015. But further units will follow – a second unit is already being installed in Europe.
And it turns out Liam also strikes a blow for robot rights, apparently getting the weekend off. So far Apple hasn’t provided any detail about Liam’s holiday entitlement or other benefits.