Apple’s iPhone SE is made of new low-carbon aluminum

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Apple likes to show off its ability to conserve metal, and now it’s reducing the environmental impact of the metal itself. The company says the latest iPhone SE is the first product made on an industrial scale from “commercially pure” low-carbon aluminum. Montreal, Canada-based Elysis has produced a batch for Apple using a carbon-free, hydro-powered smelting process that produces oxygen instead of greenhouse gases.

The two companies did not say how many iPhone SE devices would use this aluminum. The design relies most on aluminum for the frame, but the back is dominated by glass which aids in wireless charging and data reception.

The development is long in coming. Apple assisted in the development through an investment team made up of Alcoa, Rio Tinto, the Canadian government, and the Quebec provincial government. The tech company also bought the union’s first batch of aluminum to produce the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro. Aluminum-related carbon emissions at Apple have fallen nearly 70 percent since 2015, the company said.

Apple has boasted that it has routinely poured money into projects like this through three “green bonds” totaling $4.7 billion. The investments, which started in 2016, were aimed at both reducing emissions and supplying clean power. The money for Elysis’s low-carbon aluminum comes from a 2019 bond that supports 50 projects, including projects that “soften or offset” 2.9 million tons of CO2 and deliver nearly 700 MW of renewable energy.

The efforts are helping to polish Apple’s image, just as they could reduce its contribution to climate change — like Samsung and other rivals, the company aims to allay buyers who fear their new phone will cause unnecessary damage. However, greater use of this environmentally friendly aluminum will help Apple achieve its goal of selling carbon neutral products by 2030. And given Apple’s massive market power, carbon cuts like this could have a tangible effect.

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