Apple is upfront about its environmental initiatives, whether that relates to its products, packaging, manufacturing, shipping, or its own corporate campus. At the “Time Flies” event announcing new iPads and Apple Watches, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, laid out a fresh set of environmental goals for the next decade.
One move that’s going to directly affect consumers is Apple’s fight against the problem of e-waste (electronic waste). It will no longer include a wall charger with the Apple Watch, effective immediately. “Sometimes it’s not what we make, but what we don’t make, that counts,” she said.
The Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE will still come with a charging cable, because it’s a proprietary magnetic connector that only Apple makes. However, it won’t include the wall side of the equation. You’ll have to plug the USB-A cable into a computer or another charger that you happen to have lying around.
Rumors suggest Apple will do the same with other products, potentially even the iPhone. While at first glance it feels like a nickel-and-dime scheme from Apple to get you to buy its preposterously overpriced wall chargers, there’s more to it.
In 2019, the world generated an estimated 53 million metric tons of e-waste, and well under 20% was properly recycled. The rate of e-waste generation has increased faster than efforts to recycle it, and while Apple has its own aggressive recycling program, the best thing you can do for the environment is to not make excess electronics in the first place.
If Apple takes the charger out of the box of the new iPhone 12 series, just as it is doing with the Apple Watch, we shouldn’t be mad. We should applaud the move. Doubly so if there are no headphones in the box.
Apple is shipping roughly 200 million iPhones per year. That’s 200 million more low-power charging bricks out in the world — most of which will be used for a short period of time or never taken out of the box. And experience shows they will, eventually, make their way to the landfill more often than a recycling center.
We should be getting new chargers when we need them, not in the box with every phone.
With something like an Apple Watch, it’s a great bet that you’ll have a way to plug it in. Its power demands are so low that any old charger will work. Things are a little different with the iPhone, particularly if you want fast charging, but there are so many solutions to this problem that are better for the environment than including a charger. Apple could offer a discount when buying a charger along with the phone, for example, or an incentive to recycle an old charger and get a new one. And of course, you can buy any number of great, powerful chargers online for a fraction of what it costs to get an Apple one.
But really, it’s all about understanding the state of consumer electronics today. Let’s remember it’s the year 2020, and there are already more than enough chargers in the world to satiate our phone power needs. We should be acquiring new chargers when, and only when, we need them.