Is Apple becoming a rotten fruit?

Anita Engelstad Thorsen, Ellen Vik, Hannah Sofie Kjellevold, Isabelle Steine Bendriss, Pernille Sæther-Larsen

Apple continuously tempts consumers to pick the unsustainable choice.

Each year we see new launches in the tech industry. Especially popular is the launch of the new iPhone of the year, by the world’s largest tech company, Apple. But as we run to buy the newest tech device we also run away from our environmental responsibilities.

Is Apple becoming a rotten fruit that we should not pick?

Luring us into toxic consumption

In today’s technology-driven society, electronic waste (e-waste) is becoming one of the fastest-growing climate challenges. According to UN, the world generates 50 million tons of e-waste every year where only 20% is properly recycled. E-waste contains toxic chemicals known to harm human health, especially children of developing countries.

With every new iPhone release, the e-waste increases.

Apple strategically launches new models every year and reduces the performance of older ones, ultimately forcing users to upgrade their phones. Through the struggle of maximizing their profits, Apple takes advantage of their market power and acts in an unsustainable way that harms the global environment.

Even though Apple’s annual iPhone release may not feature revolutionary technology, the company manages to lure users into upgrading their fully functional phones with nearly identical newer models.

Just like with Adam and Eve, Apple is tempting their consumers to pick the unsustainable choice. This is largely due to consumers' desire to stay up-to-date and maintain their status, as well as the gradual decline in performance of older phones, which can make them seem slow and outdated after just a year.

Greenwashing their way to profits

In Apple’s flawless ESG report, they write numerous pages about how they contribute to each of the 17 sustainability goals with environmental initiatives, climate pledges, and overall reduction of their carbon footprint.

They have a broad focus on the 12th goal to ensure sustainable consumption, giving seven supporting initiatives. However, a strategy of diminishing the life cycle of the iPhone down to one-year conflicts with these initiatives. Consequently, the industry leader greenwashes its way to higher profits and more market power.

Apple’s release of new products each year is a big issue. As a market-leading company, they should set an example for suppliers and competitors to follow. The inadequate recycling of electronic devices can initiate a series of environmental repercussions. Making new devices requires more resources and creates more pollution.

Apple’s insufficient measures

To increase the amount of recycled e-waste, Apple has introduced a take-back program for iPhones. Additionally, they have developed a robot called Daisy that recovers reusable metals from recycled phones. This technology enables Apple to reuse these metals instead of extracting new raw metals.

While this sounds promising, it is merely a green facade. Recycling alone cannot solve the world’s environmental problems. Apple’s production is responsible for 80% of their emissions, hence recycling outdated devices is not enough if they continue production as it is today.

The amazing Daisy that Apple is proudly presenting in their ESG report, is also a textbook example of greenwashing. Apple products are sold all over the world, however, there is only one Daisy. This means that Apple’s solution to the e-waste problem entails shipping outdated products from across the world to the US to obtain reusable metals. How is that for carbon emissions?

Has the iPhone become the new fast fashion?

A possible solution to this problem would be to halt Apple’s annual product releases and prioritize sustainability and environmental issues over profit. Focusing on being sustainable might actually be the most profitable in the long run. Phones should not be treated as fast fashion, even though it might give the highest profit.

Apple should only release new products when significant technological improvements have been made, rather than simply acting as a profit-maximizing machine. This approach could help slow down the constant turnover of phones and reduce production. Making it easier for Apple to focus on cutting emissions in their production chain.

Apple - The rotten fruit

Apple may be the biggest fruit in the tech industry, but it's rotting from the inside out. With every annual iPhone release, the company perpetuates a cycle of unsustainable waste and environmental damage.

It's time for Apple to stop putting profit over the planet and start prioritizing sustainability. By developing software that extends the life cycle of iPhones and halting the constant release of new products, Apple can lead the industry into responsible and sustainable practices.

The clock is ticking, and the world is watching. The question is, will Apple step up and become a fresh, ripe apple, or continue to decay and harm our planet?


Winner of Opinion Essay Competition Spring 2023

This essay is the winner of this semester's sustainability opinion essay competition at BI. The students received a prize of 10.000 NOK. Read more about the competition.



Apple. (2022). Environmental Social Government Report (ESG Report 2022). 

UN (2019, 24. January). UN report: Time to seize opportunity, tackle challenge of e-waste 

Pinto, V. N., (2008). E-waste hazard: The impending challenge. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 12(2): 65-70. 10.4103/0019-5278.43263


Published 11. May 2023

You can also see all news here.