March 10, 2013
MACBOOK PRO 13” 2012: Raw Materials
Apple is one of the biggest companies to dominate in the world technology sector. As one of the leaders it is important for Apple to be conscious of their inputs and outputs of any product systems they create. Based off of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) my research focused on the raw materials that go into the manufacturing of a MacBook Pro 13” 2012. The raw materials that go into a product have a direct impact environmentally resulting in direct affects on the health and safety of the public. The raw materials that go into a MACBOOK PRO 13” 2012 have been reduced compared to any previous MacBook editions. Apple has reduced its carbon footprint and carbon emission by eliminating toxic materials and chemicals by using alternative resources and designing for the future.
Apple has a team of designers that only focuses on the life cycle of any Apple product. When Apple designs a product their designers consider the energy required to: extract, process, package, transport, sell, install (build), maintain, and to recycle or dispose of a product. The Apple website claims that, “Apple reports environmental impact comprehensively. We do this by focusing on our products: what happens when we design them, what happens when we make them, and what happens when you take them home and use them (Apple Inc.)”. There exists something known as the “Sustainability Triad” or Triple Bottom Line that was created by a team of researchers at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. The “Sustainability Triad” is the framework for all things sustainable; which takes into consideration plants, people, and profit. In Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart they go over the “Sustainability Triad” and show the importance of how social measures, environmental measures, and financial measures all coincide. McDonough and Braungart also talk about the Prevailing financial paradigm of businesses today, which talks about how businesses only focus on an economical outcome. Meaning most businesses only focus on making a profit while ignoring the outcomes of the impact on the planet and people. Apple on the other hand, assures its consumers that they are also focused on ecology and equity. The business paradigm begins with the raw materials of any product because these materials ultimately are what have a direct effect on the planet and people.
Apple insists they design consciously but this conscious thinking of design is important for the future because since there is a limited amount of resources it is important to extract wisely so that little impact is done environmentally. The Apple greenhouse gas emissions are calculated in accordance with guidelines and requirements as specified by the International Organization for Standardization or often called ISO. ISO is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards, which has certain specifications for products, service, and good practices within a company. This is important because a company must take into consideration their green house admissions. The embodied energy used to create a MacBook Pro 13” 2012 is important to the product life-cycle because it includes the raw material extraction, transport, manufacture, assembly, installation, dis-assembly, deconstruction and/or decomposition as well as human and secondary resources. “Including extraction of raw materials and product assembly, manufacturing accounts for 45 percent of Apple's total greenhouse gas emissions”(Davies). Apple's designers and engineers have been continuously engineering ways to reduce carbon emissions. They have been able to achieve this with the development of smaller, thinner and lighter products. Apple is also a part of the EPEAT rating system, which is, “a comprehensive environmental rating that helps identify greener computers and other electronic equipment (EPEAT).” Greener computers mean that Apple is putting sustainable products on the market. Most “lock-in” of environmental impacts occurs within the concept and detail design steps of the product development. Details of design include the raw materials that go into the product. If the MacBook Pro 13” 2012 is being verified as sustainable that means the initial design of the product is beating out other products out on the market.
In “ A letter from Bob Mansfield,” Bob Mansfield the Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering assures apple is,“ Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry.” Apple prides itself on sustainable design, which is why apple makes it clear that they follow the guidelines of ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 and that both of these ISO’s specify the requirements and provide ways to follow the for LCA by providing definitions of, “ ...The goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements (ISO)”. These ISO’s are important because they completely cover the life cycle assessment studies and life cycle inventory studies.
The Apple website shows Apple’s environmental imprint throughout the years of the Apple products. Davies states the carbon emissions from MacBooks in 2010 compared to MacBooks in 2006 have had a 12 percent reduction rate. Apple states that the 15” model of MacBook Pro has had a 21 percent reduction rate from 2006 to 2011. The data on MacBook Pro 13” is unavailable on the apple site. Apple has reduced the presence of toxic substances such as arsenic, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), mercury, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Mansfield states, “Apple led the industry in removing harmful toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). There are many parts to a MacBook Pro 13” 2012 like backlights, glass LCD displays, circuit boards, internal cables, connectors, insulators, shock mounts, and adhesives. Compared to their competition Apple claims that they have removed these toxins, “In addition, every display Apple manufactures features mercury-free LED backlighting and arsenic-free glass.” If these types of chemicals still existed in the product and were disposed to the landfills, toxins would be present. When toxins are present in products they excrete invisible gases; which then become present in the air that we breathe.
Although Apple has been unable to remove all of the toxic materials they still focus on being greener by using recycled materials. Apple states that they use, “recycled plastics, recycled paper, biopolymers (Apple Inc) ”. The packaging on the MacBook Pro 13” 2012 is also designed with, “pulp fiber from post-consumer paper streams”, and even the inks used to print on the user guides are vegetable-based which is safer for the environment. This is crucial to the industry because these are steps taken to improve quality in public health and safety. Mansfield states, “We are the only company to comprehensively report greenhouse gas emissions for every product we make, taking into account the entire product lifecycle. And we’ve removed plastics wherever possible, in favor of materials that are more highly recyclable, more durable, more efficient and longer lasting.” Re-using and up-cycling materials is important because of the limited resources of raw materials. With a high demand of product it is important to re-use and re-cycle. Aluminum is one of the materials Apple uses on all of their products because it is highly recyclable.
In the design world it is very common for products to be designed to have a limited useful life. When a product is created to have limited useful life, it is known as obsolete design. Apple is a corporation but unlike other companies it doesn’t only focus on economy but also ecology and equity. Apple works with manufacturing partners and teams of designers to innovate and lead the technology sector in greener products. Apple is a business so even if their product is designed to be obsolete they still hold themselves responsible for the final outcome of their product. This is extremely important to the industry and public health of the world because Apple does use toxic materials but still wants to be accountable for the outcome of their product. Apple is extremely environmentally conscious so when it comes to the disposing of their product so they provide recycling programs. These programs are created to raise awareness of the environmental impact on raw materials “Apple’s approach to recycling begins in the design stage, where we create compact, efficient products that require less material to produce” (Apple Inc). This is important because Apple designs effectively Apple states, “We know that the most important thing we can do to reduce our impact on the environment is to improve our products’ environmental performance. That’s why we design them to use less material, ship with smaller packaging, be free of toxic substances, and be as energy efficient and recyclable as possible.” Apple is committed to creating products that have the least amount of impact on the environment and they show this by providing data publically for consumers to read, digest, and compare.
Apple is a part of many energy efficient programs like the Energy Star program, which focuses on efficient design. There have been many different versions of the MacBook Pro since it first came out in 2006. Apple has found a way to maximize energy with the MacBook Pro 13” 2012 because it has transformed energy into a functioning product while being sustainable. In order for a business to profit it is assumed that a product cannot cost more than the cost of energy used to make it. If it did then businesses would not profit, this assumption stems from a misconception of embodied energy both in terms of economic and environmental “costs.” Apple gives data on their embodied energy by providing their carbon emissions and footprint publically.
Apple is one of the top companies because Apple doesn’t produce efficient design they produce effective design. “Apple's goal is to continue being an industry leader in reducing or even eliminating environmentally harmful substances (Apple Inc.)”. Being environmentally responsible is something Apple claims to focus on which is a big importance to any product during the extraction and manufacturing processes, “Designing more green products means considering the impact raw materials have on the environment. From the glass, plastic, and metal used in the iPhone, iPad and iMac, to the paper and ink in packaging” Apple provides a lot of information because they pride themselves on sustainable design. Mansfield states,” One big challenge is reducing the presence of toxic substances”, but they are always continuing to develop ways to improve their product. Apple is able to continuously grow as a business not because they design efficiently but because they design effectively. They follow the “Sustainability Triad” and exceed expectations sustainable because they start off thinking environmentally responsible beginning with their raw materials and ending with their disposal of their product. They provide ways for you to recycle and the raise awareness in the production and manufacturing of their products. Apple wants you to know, Apple is conscious. I had trouble finding information specifically on the MacBook Pro 13” 2012 but Apple was very inanimate at providing information on their carbon footprint. It was difficult for me to find all of the things that go into a MacBook simply because there are so many different components to building one. But overall Apple Inc directly provided information.
Davies, Christopher. "Carbon Emissions." Web log comment. Manufacturing Digital: How It's Made. WDM Group, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
"The Environment." Apple. Apple Inc., 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
"EPEAT, The DEFINITIVE GLOBAL REGISTRY For Greener Electronics." EPEAT. EPEAT, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
"Home." ISO 14044:2006. International Organization for Standardization, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Mansfield, Bob. "A Letter From Bob Mansfield." Letter to Apple Community. 13 July 2012. MS. N.p.
McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point, 2002. Print.
Sinclair, Fiona. "EcoHearth Environmental Website - Best Ecology Websites, Environmental Blogs, News, Activism, Green Jobs, Green Products." RSS. Fiona Sinclair, PhD, 12 Feb. 2010. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
The Embodied Energy Behind Apple’s Macbook Pros
In today’s society, a majority of the population is connected via computers and the Internet. It’s pretty difficult to imagine how we’d manage without everything so easily accessible and at our fingertips. Perhaps one of the most popular companies that produce the machines is Apple. Macbooks are among Apple’s many best selling products. Macbooks also remain one of the most popular laptops on the market, despite being much more pricey than its competitors. This essay will take a look into embodied energy of the systems needed to produce, distribute, disassemble and recycle Apple’s 13”, 2012 Macbook Pros.
The Macbook Pro was first introduced in 2006 as the first portable Mac to feature Intel Core Processors instead of Power PC G4 chips. The Macbook Pro was a step up from the PowerBook G4. It included a built in webcam and a slimmer design (though this was at the cost of not being able to write dual layer DVDs). The public received it very well, as it was far faster than the PowerBook or its predecessors, and the graphics were amazing. The second generation Macbook Pro was announced in 2008. The trackpad was made bigger and a high gloss screen. Over the years it was updated repeatedly, up until most recently in 2012, with Ivy Bridge processors and increased RAM. This generation was again received well, though many were sad to see the matte screen of the first generation go. However, most recent was the June 2012 announcement of the latest, third generation Macbook Pro. What makes this line special is the Retina Display, which boasts a high enough “pixel density” that eye cannot distinguish pixilation at a normal viewing distance. One major con to this model is that the memory cannot be upgraded past time of purchase since the memory is soldered onto the logic board. The battery is permanently fused to the computer as well, and is impossible to remove without causing damage to the computer. Despite these downfalls, the third generation has been praised immensely for its outstanding graphics and cutting edge technology.
Like many other companies, Apple produces its products outside of the US. Apple has contracted Foxconn to manufacture most of its items. Foxconn is a very successful Chinese electronics manufacturing company that has its headquarters stationed in Taiwan (R.A.). Production alone accounts for about sixty-one percent of Apple’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That percentage is a whopping 14, 096, 000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions! However, Apple has cut down in the carbon emissions produced from many of its products. The more recent Macbook Pros have seen a twenty-one percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to the 2006 model. Though emissions are a huge problem, energy efficiency should not be ignored either.
We’d expect laptop computers nowadays to be much more energy efficient, but that’s not always the case. The Macbook Pro however was designed with energy efficiency in mind. When in “idle” mode, the computer uses only “one quarter of the power of an ordinary 60-watt lightbulb (Hutsko)”. Nonetheless, in reality we should be focusing on the energy efficiency of the production of the computer. The manufacturing of the laptop accounts for seventy percent of the energy the machine will use during its entire lifetime! Production of a single laptop computer requires around 3010 to 4340 MJ of primary energy. Though this is around sixty percent less energy than what a desktop computer requires, it’s still quite a lot. To put this into perspective, 3010-4340 MJ is around what is needed to manufacture a refrigerator (Cooney)! This problem could be fixed if we concentrated on extending the lifespan of laptops, which would control the life cycle energy, but it’s not all that easy.
Embodied energy is defined as the energy required to make a product. This includes everything from harvesting the raw materials to transporting the product to its destination. Due to “advanced digital technology” the embodied energy of anything digitally technological thoroughly exceeds its lifetime by a lot. For computers, the ratio of fossil fuel needed to produce it to its weight (in kilograms) is a whopping 12 to 1. This means that 83% of the energy use of the computer goes to production, while the remaining 17% is for operation (De Decker).
The microchip, a very important aspect of any digital device, especially computers, has its own embodied energy. To produce, 1 kilogram of microchips (with the average chip weighing around 2 grams), 800 kilograms of fuel is required. That’s a ridiculously large number for such a small object, but that’s because producing microchips is no small feat.
Macbook Pros, along with most, if not all, other Apple products are designed with planned obsolescence in mind. “The average battery is rated at 1,000 charges (Carlozo)”, and that’s around two to three years for the average person. Even though there is a battery replacement program in place, it is costly in time and money. This service calls for $200 and a waiting period of several weeks for your laptop to be mailed back. Apple knows that its products are popular enough that they can get away with planned obsolescence.
Transportation is also a huge factor that is sometimes over looked when thinking about how much energy is used in production. It is one thing to simply put together a Macbook Pro, and it’s another to get it to the customer. Apple primarily uses ships and planes to get its products from China to the US.
Surprisingly, aircraft uses a relatively small amount of fossil fuels compared to other modes of transportation. It is quickly becoming a very popular mode of transportation among overseas companies. Freight carriers typically use between 12,000 and 14,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units, one BTU is roughly equivalent to 1.06 kilojoules) per ton-mile of cargo (Rivlin, 36).
Water transportation on the other hand, is a little different. We have to take into consideration several aspects, as ships aren’t as simply handled. Tugboats, towboats, cargo ships, etc. are involved, and the energy required to navigate one water pathway may be very different from the next. For example, up to four times as much energy per ton-mile is used to navigate the Gulf Intracoastal Waterways as the Mississippi River, because the river is much deeper and wider, and there aren’t as many locks or as much traffic (Rivlin, 34). For the sake of the situation, and the sanity of the reader, we will use an average instead of pinpointing exact locations and energy usage. The typical cargo ship uses 350 BTUs per ton-mile (this average however, does not take into account the energy used by the other boats needed, such as tugs).
Vehicles such as cargo trucks are used to transport the products to their destinations in various Apple stores or warehouses. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact energy estimation, but the average is around 1,800 to 2,500 BTUs per ton-mile of cargo. These numbers are a little bit sketchy because information on the truck fuel economy is hard to come by. Plus, there is extra energy is unaccounted for in “empty back-hauls (Rivlin, 28)”. After the products are delivered, the company is responsible for the truck’s return trip as well.
One last important factor we must not overlook when considering energy used in transportation is packaging. Though at first glance it does not seem that the two are related, they are very much so. By reducing packaging size, more products can be fit onto each ship and plane, thus saving the company trips and ultimately saving energy.
When it comes to disassembling and recycling, Apple is fully responsible for its products. The company does not send any recycled products overseas… in fact it has its recycling plant right where it’s headquartered, in Cupertino. Recycling is a huge part of the electronics industry, and laptop computers are no exception. In fact, much of a computer can be reused if it is not in bad shape. One statistic claims, “About 30% of the 3.5 million tons of electronics collected in the U.S. for recycling in 2010 were reused in some fashion (Smith-Teutsch)”.
Aluminum is a big part of what makes up a Macbook Pro. Fortunately, aluminum also happens to be extremely recyclable. Recycling aluminum surprisingly takes only around five percent of the energy originally used to create the merchandise (Smith). This small percentage makes it worth it to recycle, especially since aluminum is a popular lightweight metal that has many useful properties. The Macbook Pro is easily separated into three sections, so when it comes to disassembly, it is easy to take apart and recycle or refurbish.
Recycling some parts of the Macbook Pro such as the aluminum body may be no problem at all, but problems do come in when we consider nano-materials. Simply put, nano-materials, such as microchips, are impossible to recycle. Recycling also has no use if all the energy use is concentrated in the production. In most other conventional ways of production, using recycled materials lowers overall energy use, but not in the case of nano-materials. Besides, the energy required to take apart these nano-materials surpasses even the energy needed to produce it (De Decker).
Though the computer itself is a complicated situation when it comes to recycling, we also need to think about its packaging. The wrapping that Macbook Pros come in is recyclable, as expected. Not only is the packaging 41% smaller than the previous model’s, it is also “made from a minimum of 25% post-recyclable material. Perhaps one would expect more than 25% from such a company as Apple, but the packaging itself is very recyclable. It’s made of paper, molded fiber, high-impact polystyrene, and plastics. Recycling paper, which is the most recyclable part of the whole packaging saves about 4,000 kWh (kilo-watt hours) of electricity (MacGuire). That is enough electricity to power the average American home, electricity, heat, air conditioning, for 6 months! However, recycling paper to make pulp guzzles more fossil fuels than making new pulp, but no option is without its drawbacks.
The more common alternative to recycling is refurbishing. If you want to recycle your Macbook Pro, you have the option of taking it to Apple, or you can take it to a different electronics recycling plant. The laptop will be inventoried and tested because it is common for a laptop to be recycled yet still work. If that’s the case, the laptop will be fixed up and sold as one, a.k.a. refurbishing. However, if this is not the case, the laptop will be taken apart and its parts that are still usable will be sold separately. The parts that can be recycled are recycled, and the non-recyclable parts, such as the hard drive are specially destroyed in a shredder, and the recyclable parts (copper, aluminum, precious metals, etc.) are taken out via magnets (Smith-Teutsch).
Apple seems to pride itself greatly on its “green-ness”. Not all of that pride goes undeserved. It is very informative on its energy statistics, as well as its materials and waste management, and those stats look very good. But as anyone would expect, it is a big company with a lot to lose if anything goes badly. That’s what made this research project so difficult; Apple makes sure that the public sees only what they want us to see. Much of the information had to be gathered from general sources, there is little information that exists about Macbook Pros themselves that is not provided by Apple. But nonetheless, a deeper insight into the world of Macbook Pros that so many of us use on a daily basis can be gained by looking at the embodied energy needed to make, distribute and disassemble these machines.
"13-inch Macbook Pro." Apple Inc., 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://images.apple.com/environment/reports/docs/MacBook-Pro-13-inch-Environmental-Report.pdf>.
Carlozo, Lou. "A Q&A with Kyle Wiens of IFixit: "The MacBook Pro Retina Is Designed to Fail"" A Q&A with Kyle Wiens of IFixit: "The MacBook Pro Retina Is Designed to Fail" Dealnews.com Inc., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://dealnews.com/features/A-Q-A-with-Kyle-Wiens-of-iFixit-The-Mac-Book-Pro-Retina-Is-Designed-to-Fail-/635554.html>.
Cooney, Michael. "Computer Factories Eat Way More Energy than Running the Devices They Build." Network World. Network World Inc., 14 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/computer-factories-eat-way-more-energy-runnin>.
De Decker, Kris. "The Monster Footprint of Digital Technology." 'Low-tech Magazine' Low-tech Magazine, 16 June 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/06/embodied-energy-of-digital-technology.html>.
Hutsko, Joe. "The New MacBookâs Green Credentials." Green The New MacBooks Green Credentials Comments. The New York Times Company, 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/the-new-macbooks-green-credentials/>.
MacGuire, Francis. "Paper Recycling: Exposing the Myths." Friends of the Earth: Briefing: Paper Recycling: Exposing the Myths. Friends of the Earth, June 2001. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/paper_recycling.html>.
A, R. "Apple and the American Economy." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/01/supply-chains>.
Rivlin, Alice M. Energy Use in Freight Transportation. Rep. Washington DC: n.p., n.d. Congressional US Budget Office. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/53xx/doc5330/doc02b-entire.pdf>.
Rodrigue, Jean-Paul. "Order-Delivery Sequence of an Apple IPad." The Geography of Transport Systems. Hofstra University, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch5en/appl5en/ipad_fedex_order.html>.
Smith-Teutsch, Amanda. "What Happens to Your Electronics When You Drop Them Off For Recycling?" Escrapbeat. Wordpress, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://escrapbeat.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/what-happens-to-your-electronics-when-you-drop-them-off-for-recycling/>.
Stephanie, Smith. "Recycling Fast Facts." Stark State College. Stark State College, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.starkstate.edu/green/recycling-fast-facts>.
"The Story Behind Apple's Environmental Footprint." Apple and the Environment. Apple Inc., 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.apple.com/environment/>.
Life Cycle Assessment of the 13” 2012 Macbook Pro – Recycling and Waste Management.
In a product’s entire lifetime, post-consumer use is given the least thought. Few, if any, consumers worry about what processes are needed to decompose electronics, much less are aware of the wastefulness in both production and disassembly. However, consumer ignorance does not change the fact that these processes generate an astonishing amount of unwanted byproducts and leaving behind a substantial carbon footprint. While most electronics and data communications contribute an increasingly high percentage of greenhouse gases and waste, Apple does a good job of reducing their products’ carbon footprint in how they recycle their products and reduce material use.
Apple’s newest Macbook Pro packs an impressively high processing power into its thin and sleek design. The company bolsters its upgraded RAM and fan efficiency, as well as internal core processors and memory. According to Apple’s 2012 fiscal year report, over 18,000,000 units sold, netting a whopping $23,221 million worldwide in revenue. However, there will inevitably be a new model of laptop rendering the current models obsolete, which begs the question of how and where they will be recycled.
Thoughtfully, Apple provides a recycling service for their products, allowing customers to mail in older models for credit towards their next purchase. Old iDevices are accepted, and the customer receives a gift card for their troubles. They offer recycling programs in Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Asia, Australia, Brazil, and Costa Rica. In the United States, they collect electronics and recycle them in Cupertino, their own headquarters. Apple partners with an electronics recycling company called PowerON and another Sims Recycling Solutions to dispose of unusable remnants. 
According to Apple, the recycling process involves disassembling the device, and reusable components are removed. Their top recycling components are glass and metal, often which are reused in the manufacture of new laptops. In addition, the plastics in the computer are converted to pellets for use as a secondary raw material, bringing their average material recovery rate up to 90% from the product’s original weight.  (See Figure 1.)
The processes involved in recycling itself generate carbon emissions. Most of the housing of a laptop is a smooth textured plastic with a blasted aluminum-steel frame. In recycling, this housing is separated from the rest of the equipment, and the labels and insulation are removed. In most cases, these parts cannot be reused as they don’t fit on other models, and additives like flame retardants make them also eliminates their resale value. Instead of tossing the plastic into a landfill, Apple turns them plastics into pellets which have some secondary processing value. The small plastic parts inside computers are recyclable; however recyclers must be careful not to mix other materials with these in order to maintain the reusable value. These parts are usually made from HDPE, a high density polyethylene. They are easier to remove and process than the genera computer housing. 
A case study of recycling plastic was conducted in Santa Barbara, where it was found that one kilogram of recycled plastic generated 2.33 kilograms of CO2. This accounted for obtaining the natural gas and crude oil required to operate the machinery, the energy it took to generate electricity to operate, as well as fuel needed for transporting the goods that required recycling. A complete 13” Macbook Pro weighs 1.06 kilograms, and 50 grams of it are made of plastic.  In one fiscal year, 18 million units sold equals 900,000 kilograms of plastic. If all of this plastic was recycled, that generates a Global Warming Potention (hereby referred to as GWP) 2,097,000 kilograms of CO2.
When the plastics are removed, the recycling process then targets the metal inside the computer. They are removed and sorted magnetically before being sold as scrap to be melted down and reused. In the Macbook, aluminum makes up over a third of the laptop in weight, and has a very high recovery rate. (See Figure 1.) The European Aluminum Association considers mining the bauxite, transport, refining, alloying, oil resources, and remelting scrap aluminum to evaluate recycling aluminum ‘s environmental impact. (See Figure 2.) One kilogram of recycled aluminum ingot produces .481 kilograms of CO2 emissions. If all of the aluminum in the laptops sold in 2012 were recycled, it would produce 5,151,510 kilograms of CO2 total.
The second-most recycled aspect of the Macbook is the glass present in its screens. The Retina display of the Macbook uses different technology than their older cathode ray tube counterparts for higher definition.  This technology is relatively new, and no exhaustive information was found in its recycling. However, recycling the glass itself and the display panel reduces carbon emissions by about ten percent. According to a life cycle assessment conducted by British Glass, the emissions from re-melting recycled glass is 126,000 tonnes of CO2 less than glass production from scratch, which totals 1,131,000 tonnes (1,131,000,000 kg) of CO2 a year. Their scope of the study included the extraction of raw materials for production, transport, manufacturing, collecting and transport of recycled glass, and reprocessing the recycled glass. (See Figure 3.)
The most complicated part of recycling is obtaining the precious metal from the circuit boards. While Apple understandably does not provide an in-depth procedure of how they recycle circuit boards, circuit boards in general can be resold as operational parts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that unusable circuit boards are chopped into a powder and separated into fiberglass and precious metal in a process called “fire assay.” Fire assay consists of mixing a pulverized sample with a fluxing agent and then heated to 1000 degrees Celsius. The sample will fuse after 20 minutes where the silicate slag and lead separate, leaving a small button of precious metals at the bottom, from which they (usually gold) can be retrieved and reused. This area of industry does not have information readily available as it is considered a highly valued industry trade.
The final stage in the Macbook recycling process involves the battery. A life cycle assessment on batteries showed a yearly emission of 31 to 67 grams of CO2 per battery. In an entire fiscal year, 18 million recycled batteries would amount to somewhere between 558,000 kilograms to 1,206,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions. This life cycle assessment included mining, manufacture, transport, construction and charging of the batteries, as well as the battery’s disposal in its scope. 
The waste from the end product is only the tip of the iceberg. A 2002 LCA model estimates laptop waste to be only 83 kilograms, however that appears to only account for the disposal of the laptop itself.  The battery, recovery of precious metals, glass, plastic, and aluminum from recycled laptops accounts for the reusability of 90% of the original MacBook’s weight, but the remainder 10% is unusable and must be disposed of. This waste goes into industrial dumps and doesn’t naturally break down easily. All parts of the laptop were refined from raw materials, from the silica melted and formed into the glass and chips, to the aluminum extracted from bauxite to make the frame of the computer. Each step in production and refinement has waste products.
The fact of the matter is that not all 18 million laptops are returned to Apple to be properly recycled. Many computers are exported overseas where they are broken down for the precious metals inside, without the proper safety equipment to handle the hazardous chemicals. As a result, lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium are released in concentrated amounts into the environment, all of which are linked to brain damage, kidney disease, and cancer. While the laptops broken down this way don’t have as high a carbon emission measurement as an industrial factory, the manual laborers instead work in highly toxic environment. However, a majority of the metal present in Macbooks is nontoxic, and aluminum is a major non-carcinogenic component of a Macbook Pro.
Aluminum produces its own weight in excess slag when refined from bauxite. 2.2 tonnes of raw bauxite is used per tonne of alumina as well as requiring 10 gigaJoules of energy and 230 kilowatt hours of electricity.  Other solid wastes from alumina production are the tailings and sand from are buried along with the ‘red mud’ from the leaching process. This mixture is high in toxic alkali residue, however over time they will react with the carbon dioxide in the air to form more harmless sodium carbonate.
In glass production, most of the waste is by-products in the air from the melting furnaces and particulate matter. Dust from transportation, storage, and mixing often cause added health and safety issues, but the particulate matter from the furnaces present from the furnaces and bellows present the highest environmental concern. Due to their high concentration in carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, chlorides, and fluorides used in glass-making, aerial waste containment is a major concern. Compared to other production phases, glass has the lowest solid waste, only occurring in smashed goods in transport and shipping.
Conclusion and Reflection
The scope of this study spanned the recycling practices of the Macbook Pro 13” 2012. Each material that made up the Macbook aimed to estimate a yearly carbon dioxide emission based on 2012’s fiscal sales, accounting for each of the individual life cycles of the component in question. Raw material extraction, transportation, refining and processing, recycling, and waste management statistics were all sought to provide the most accurate and complete estimate.
However, not all parts of the industry had information readily available to the public. Industrial practices for glass making and aluminum refining were among the more readily available information, whereas trade secrets such as specific battery manufacture were difficult to find. Recycling is considered a virtue in a consumer world, and so companies are readily agreeable to providing statistics to show their reduction in carbon emissions. Waste management, on the other hand, was exceedingly more difficult to locate accurate information, and case studies of the same goal were fewer in number.
This research was conducted under the assumption that all Macbooks sold were identical, and all figures were final. Each material sector had roughly equal scopes, and the data was calculated under the assumption that each life cycle placed equal weight on primary material acquisition, transportation, manufacture, recycling, and disposal.
The emissions from only recycling 18 million Macbooks a year totals an estimated 1,138,806,510 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year, which averages to 63.27 kg per unit. Apple is a proactive company in reducing its carbon emissions in all steps of its product, which suggests that many electronic producers have a much higher carbon output. With the growing demand for laptops, computers, and data communication, it is imperative all industries involved in the life cycle adopt less wasteful practices.
LCA of the 13” 2012 Macbook Pro – Bibliography
1. Apple. Advertisement. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/>
2. Apple’s Fiscal History. Advertisement. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://investor.apple.com/financials.cfm>
3. Apple’s Recycling Program for Electronics. Advertisement. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://www.apple.com/recycling/includes/recycles-responsibly.html>
4. United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Wastewise Update 1999. 31 Oct. 1999. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/smm/wastewise/pubs/wwupda14.pdf>
5. Kuczenki, Brandon, and Roland Geyer. Life Cycle Assessment IX. Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, 1 Oct. 2009 <http://www.lcacenter.org/LCA9/presentations/208.pdf>
6. Apple’s Macbook Pro 13”. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://images.apple.com/environment/reports/docs/13inch_macbookpro_retina_per_feb2013.pdf>
7. Europe. European Aluminum Association. Aluminum Recycling in LCA. July 2007. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://www.alueurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Alu_recycling_LCA.pdf>
8. Apple’s Retina Monitors.Advertisement. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/design-retina/>
9. “Glass Recycling – Life Cycle Carbon Dioxide Emissions”. Feb. 2004. 10 British Glass. Mar. 2013 <http://www.packagingfedn.co.uk/images/reports/Enviros_Report.pdf>
10. SGS. 1994-2013. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sgs.com/en/Mining/Analytical-Services/Geochemistry/Precious-Metals/Au-Pt-Pd-by-Fire-Assay.aspx>
11. Ito, Masakazu. “Life Cycle Assessment of PV Systems.” Crystalline Silicon - Properties and Uses. 2011. 9 Mar. 2013 <http://www.intechopen.com/books/crystalline-silicon-properties-and-uses/life-cycle-assessment-of-pv-systems>
12. “Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste.” CBS News. 27 Aug. 2009. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-4579229.html>
13. Europe. European Aluminum Association. Aluminum Recycling in LCA. April 2008. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://www.alueurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/EAA_Environmental_profile_report-May081.pdf>
14. Life Cycle Assessment Tool. 1997-2013. Carnegie Mellon University. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://www.eiolca.net/>
15. Mining and Refining – Energy Efficiency. Aluminum for Future Generations. 2006-2012. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://bauxite.world-aluminium.org/refining/energy-efficiency.html>
16. “Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines for Glass Manufacturing” 30 Apr. 2007. International Finance Corporation. 10 Mar. 2013 <http://www1.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/384e20804885574ebc0cfe6a6515bb18/Final%2B-%2BGlass%2BManufacturing.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&id=1323152002618>