Jason Koebler, reporting for Motherboard: You may have seen a viral headline floating around over the last few days: Apple recycled $40 million worth of gold last year, which was extracted from iPhones. Almost none of what was reported is true. […] Here is the truth: Apple paid independent recyclers to recycle old electronics — which were almost never Apple products, by the way — because it’s required by law to do so. Far from banking $40 million on the prospect, Apple likely ended up taking an overall monetary loss. This is not because Apple is a bad actor or is hiding anything, it’s simply how the industry works. All electronics manufacturers that sell products in the United States are required to do e-waste recycling under laws enacted in 25 states. The laws are different in each state, but none of them require Apple to recycle Apple products. Instead, they usually require manufacturers to recycle a certain amount of pounds of e-waste, which is linked to either their market share or to the overall weight of products they sell. That’s why you see Apple noting that it recycled “71 percent of the total weight of products we sold seven years earlier.”
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