Cupertino: Apple Inc on Monday unveiled a robotic system called Liam to take apart junked iPhones and recover valuable materials that can be recycled, such as silver and tungsten.
The move is an attempt to address criticism that Apple's products, while sleek and seamless in design, are so tightly constructed that their components can be difficult to diassemble, refurbish and reuse.
Liam, which has been under development for nearly three years, will initially focus on the iPhone 6. Apple plans to modify and expand the system to handle different devices and recover more resources, the company said.
The system started to operate at full capacity last month and can take apart one iPhone 6 every 11 seconds to recover aluminum, copper, tin, tungsten, cobalt, gold and silver parts, according to Apple.
At that rate and working uninterrupted, Liam likely can handle no more than a few million phones per year, a small fraction of the more than 231 million phones Apple sold in 2015.
Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said in an interview that the robotic system is meant to push the technology sector toward more recycling, both by manufacturers and consumers.
"We need more R&D if we are going to realize the idea of a circular economy in electronics," she said, referring to a goal to reuse more materials through as many cycles as possible.
Jackson, who was U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2009 to 2013, spoke to Reuters before she unveiled Liam at Apple's spring product launch on Monday.
The recycling system consists of 29 robotic modules on a single site near Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California. It will focus initially on iPhone 6 phones sold in the United States, where Apple gets about 40 percent of its revenue.
A second Liam is being installed in Europe, Apple said.