San Francisco, California (Reuters): Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) new wireless headphones, dubbed AirPods, could be a problem for recyclers; an electronics firm reported that took apart the device to review its component parts.
Apple has been working to upgrade more environmental friendly image for the company after having come under fire in the past for constructing its devices so tightly that their components can be difficult to cost-effectively disassemble for recycling.
Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, the company which took apart the AirPods and has previously analyzed other Apple products said that Apple's latest 4-gram wireless headphones, or AirPods, have glued-in tiny lithium batteries that make recycling difficult.
He estimates that Apple has sold approximately 1.4 billion pairs of iPhone and iPod headphones, weighing about 31 million pounds. Given that the iPhone 7 ships without a traditional headphone jack, AirPods may signal Apple's future.
Apple has said that the $159 AirPods can be returned to the company for recycling. A spokesman declined to comment further on recycling the devices.
Apple released these headphones last week after a one-month delay which garnered positive reviews.
The AirPods contain three lithium-ion batteries, one in each pod and one in an accompanying charging case.
Recyclers can shred wired headphones and send them to a smelter that will melt them down for the copper inside. But the lithium-ion batteries in AirPods cannot be shredded because they could catch fire while being destroyed.
The AirPods carry regulatory markings that say they are not intended to be thrown away in the trash and should be disposed of as electronics waste.
Willie Cade, CEO of Chicago-based PC Rebuilders & Recyclers said that the labor involved in removing the batteries would make it hard and costly to recover any of the materials from the devices.
"I can't do it by hand. It's cost prohibitive," Cade said, adding that the AirPods would need to go into a shredder, but that "there's a relatively high risk of fire".