Not an Easy Fit for Cell Phone Recycling

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Recycling electronic goods, including old cell phones, is all the rage these days and many electronics manufacturers have even taken to designing their goods so that they will be easier to dismantle and be ready for recycling when they have reached the end of their natural life.   “We’re finding that if you can minimize the number of screws you use to put a product together, you can reduce your assembly time and cost,” noted Panasonic’s director of environmental affairs David Thompson, in an interview earlier in January.  “Plus, at the end of life, you will be able to reduce your disassembly time and cost.  It sounds rather prosaic, I suppose, but it’s something that’s probably very basic to solving these types of challenges.”

Now that idea seems to have taken a giant step back, however, with the iPhone 4 from Apple.  The company has suddenly decided to cease using the screws that it currently uses to assemble products, and instead use Pentalobe screws.  The problem is that Pentalobe screws can only be taken out by a very special type of screwdriver – which is not available commercially, thus potentially making life very difficult for recyclers when these new iPhones become old cell phones.  “Anything where you require a specialized tool for disassembly makes it harder,” says Kyle Weins from iFixit, which publishes free repair books for electronic devices.  “Recycling is all about speed, and the iPhone is not a speedy thing to disassemble.  I don’t know what Apple will do when the time comes to recycle it because it’s a rugged phone, and it’s so time consuming to break apart.”

iPhone image courtesy of Apple