- Apple will pay $450,000 in a settlement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) over alleged hazardous waste violations at multiple locations. The company has blamed this on an "oversight in filing paperwork" and maintains that it followed all health and safety requirements, as reported by The Mercury News.
- DTSC says that Apple processed 1.1 million pounds of electronic waste at a facility in Cupertino without the state's knowledge or permission. After closing the facility in 2013, Apple then moved to a new one in Sunnyvale where it processed more than 800,000 pounds of material before telling the state.
- During an inspection in June 2013, DTSC found that metal dust being created contained hazardous levels of copper, zinc and other particles. This dust wasn't labeled properly and was sent to a recycling facility that wasn't authorized to handle hazardous material. Used oil containers were also not marked as hazardous waste.
How this "oversight" was allowed to go unresolved for years remains unclear, but Apple says it now has all of the proper permits and will comply with all state regulations. Weekly inspections of facilities that handle hazardous waste will also be conducted. For a company that posted nearly $47 billion in revenue for its most recent fiscal quarter, this fine is minor in comparison.
Overall the company's reputation for sustainability isn't likely to suffer much damage as a result of this settlement. In 2015, 93% of Apple's energy came from renewable sources and a new 29-armed recycling robot made waves earlier this year. The company also touted its new iPhone 7 as the embodiment of "continuing environmental progress" though some have questioned these claims.
Apple's decision to switch to wireless earbuds for the latest phone model without an accessible option for recycling old headphones has been criticized, along with its stance on planned obsolescence. The company is one of many large electronics manufacturers that does not make the proper tools or schematics available for consumers and recyclers to refurbish their devices. Survey results have shown that consumers want companies to take more responsibility for recycling their products, though so far that hasn't translated to a major policy shift on the part of Apple or others.