Apple announced via Medium.com yesterday that they’ll be expanding their conservation efforts in the U.S. by helping to preserve over 360,000 acres of forest in Maine and California. In doing so, they claim they’ll be able to sustainably source the paper they used in packaging their many highly sought after products. Additionally, they’re expanding their use of solar energy in their California offices.
Those are both undeniably good things. They’re also not indicative of the standard behavior that technology companies such as Apple, Samsung, and others typically employ in actually making the products that you and I use every day.
Here’s a look at what Apple, et al, typically create in their day to day business of building tech products that require rare Earth metals via an early April BBC report.
The above stills are all of a giant toxic lake in Inner Mongolia where the rare earth minerals required to make batteries for modern smartphones, tablets, laptops, lithium ion car batteries for electric cars, and even wind turbines, are mined and separated.
In order to separate the needed minerals from the unneeded earth surrounding it, the earth is run through a huge bath of sulphuric and nitric acids. The desired minerals are then extracted while the rest of the toxic sludge is literally flushed into a giant hole. This is what that hole looks like from above. At its longest point it’s nearly 2 miles.
And there are many such sites in Asia and many in Africa as well. So let’s not kid ourselves and let’s not let Apple kid us either. While adding solar to power Apple’s office spaces and making moves to sustainably harvest trees are both decidedly good things, they’re not the whole story.
No, the whole story includes toxic waste dumps like the above and 24 worker suicides at Foxconn, the company that makes Apple products (along with many others), in a country where worker suicide rates are demonstrably high and working conditions are demonstrably bad to the point that even China’s universities referred to Foxconn’s factories as “labor camps” in 2010.
This would never be allowed in the West and its pure exploitation to allow this kind of operation to continue elsewhere simply because there’s no law against it.