Meet Liam – Apple’s iPhone Recycling Robot

Modern smartphones are full of valuable materials that are capable of being reused even once the phone has reached the end of its life. This is where Apple’s new R&D project, Liam, comes in. As part of a new environmental initiative at the Cupertino tech giant, Liam is able to systematically identify and remove part of old iPhones that are valuable or reusable and strip them out safely so that they can be reused or refurbished in new devices.

At Apple’s press conference this Monday, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives revealed the new recycling robot. The development is part of a belief at Apple that true innovation and design of a product includes considering what happens to it at every stage of its lifecycle. This makes Liam part of a far larger environmental initiative by the company which plans to focus more on renewable energy, with Liam helping to allow more recyclable materials back into supplies. It also helps save Apple money, as they would have to buy in less and less of these valuable materials for use in the manufacturing process.

Some of the activities Liam performs on a typical iPhone include getting cobalt and lithium from batteries, separating the gold and copper in the camera and extracting silver and platinum from the main logic cores. While Liam itself does not repurpose these components, it methodically separates and sorts them so they can be repurposed with other parts containing the same materials.

Liam is in use on iPhones that are returned to Apple for recycling, with old iPhones able to be returned to Apple stores for this purpose.