Apple has designed a special robot that can disassemble old iPhones when they're returned to the company for recycling.
The robotic tool, which Apple calls Liam, separates the iPhone into its components and then removes valuable materials so they can be reused in other products.
Some of the materials extracted include cobalt and lithium from the battery, gold and copper from the camera, and silver and platinum from the motherboard. The silver can be reused in solar panels, Apple says, and tungsten can be used to make precision tools.
"There's no other machine in the world that can do what Liam can do," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said at a press event in Silicon Valley on Monday, where Apple also announced new models of the iPhone and iPad Pro.
Liam is still an R&D project, she said. It was developed as part of Apple's larger efforts to be more environmentally friendly. Apple has already been focused on using renewable energy, and now Liam could put more recycled materials back into the global supply chain.
It's also a good way for Apple to save money, because it doesn't need to buy as much of those expensive materials again.
In a way, Liam is a mechanized substitute for the recycling professionals who scrape off gold and other precious metals from discarded products.
The Liam tool could be used on iPhones that have been returned to Apple for recycling.