Apple’s V.P. of environment, policy, and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson, has today revealed that the company will be using recycled rare earth elements in iPhone’s Taptic Engine, a part that allows the iPhone’s glass display to mimic a physical button click, Reuters is reporting.
For those who aren’t familiar, rare earths are a group of 17 specialized minerals that are used in weapons, consumer electronics, and other goods. The elements have become a highlight in trade tensions between China and the United States, as the former dominates the processing of these minerals and has threatened to restrict their sales to the U.S.
Jackson told the publication that Apple’s decision to use recycled rare earths is “not related” to the ongoing trade tensions, although it could help it maintain a steady supply:
“This is one of those happy coincidences where what is good for the planet is really good for business at the same time,” Jackson told Reuters. “One of the things we talk about a lot internally, just in general, is how much more resilient this makes our supply chain.”
Apple declined to name the supplier or say what products the rare earths were recovered from, though the company did say the source was post-industrial. “We have essentially made a market for this entrepreneur, this innovator, who found a way to recycle rare earths,” Jackson said.
In consumer electronics, rare earths reside in tiny speakers and actuators but since the parts are too small, collecting them for recycling is difficult and expensive.