Apple has filed a lawsuit against its former contractor GEEP Canada for allegedly reselling over 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Watches that were supposed to be disassembled and recycled. “At least 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left GEEP’s premises without being destroyed — a fact that GEEP itself confirmed,” the complaint reads, according to The Logic (via The Verge).
The problem was discovered after Apple audited over 500,000 iPhones, Watches and iPads between 2015 and 2017. It discovered that 18 percent of those devices (103,845 in total) were still accessing the internet through cellular networks. That doesn’t count WiFi-only devices, so the figure is likely much higher.
Apple is seeking $31 million CAD ($22.7 million US) from its former partner. GEEP hasn’t denied the theft, but claims that three employees stoles the devices to benefit themselves, not the company. Apple countered that the employees were in fact GEEP’s senior executives.
Apple does market refurbished devices, but it won’t attempt to sell or allow to be sold any that don’t meet its safety or quality standards. “Products sent for recycling are no longer adequate to sell to consumers… and could cause serious safety issues,” the company told The Verge.
Nevertheless, right-to-repair groups have criticized Apple for its policies toward third-party repair shops and devices that are hard to fix. The company is moving some recycling in-house with machines called Dave and Daisy that can strip parts from 200 phones per hour to recover difficult-to-recycle components that might not otherwise be recycled. However, many critics believe that Apple and other electronics manufacturers should be focusing on re-use, not recycling, if we want to reduce the 53 million tonnes of e-waste produced in 2019 alone.