Why the iPad Has to be Made in China
Posted on: April 19, 2012 at 11:45am By:
This post originally ran with
The iPads light, sleek, simple construction
belies its complex origins. Theres a lot of
stuff in the iPad: aluminum and glass, of course,
but also other heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
And manufacturing each
285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas
emissions. The manufacturing of and material used
in the iPad are two reasons why the iPad must be
made in Chinaand not just in the ways youd expect.
Yes, labor is dirt cheap in China. Minimum wage
at Hongkai Electronics in October 2010, compared
to $1160/month in the US (based on a
federal minimum wage and a 40-hour work week).
And yes, environmental regulations in China are
pretty minimal (though
China ranks 116th out of 132 countries on Yales
Performance Index rankings. Even with all their
illegally run coltan mines, the Democratic
Republic of Congo is ranked many points higher than China.
But theres another important reason why Apple
and other manufacturers have their heels stuck in
Chinese mud. iPad manufacturing, like the
manufacturing of other electronics, requires a
significant amount of rare earth elements, the 17
difficult-to-mine elements used in all kinds of
green technology. Its hard to say exactly what
rare earths are in an iPad, since Apple is really
tight-lipped about their materialsno one can
even get them to confirm what manufacturer makes
their impact-resistant glass, though I suspect
Cambridge engineering professor Dr.
guesses that there may be lanthanum in the iPads
lithium-ion polymer battery, as well as a range
of rare earths to produce the different colours
in the display. The
along the side of the iPad and in its
(pictured above) are possibly a neodymium alloy.
Electronics glass is often
with cerium oxide. According to a
Research Service report, worldwide demand for
rare earths was 136,100 tons in 2010, 45-percent
of which was for magnets, glass, and polishing.
All Our Rare Earths Come from a Pit Mine in China
Why is all this rare earth consumption a problem?
China currently controls
of the worlds supply of rare earths and has
repeatedly cut export quotas, sending
already-high prices skyrocketing. Fearing
dependence on China for rare earths, two
in California and Lynas Corp in Australiaplan to
begin mining rare earths this year. As green
industry continues to grow, however, its unclear
if current mining operations will be able to keep up with increasing demand.
concern about the possibility of a rare earth
shortage, President Obama recently lodged
complaint with the World Trade Organization
against China about their rare earth policy. Some
specialists think the complaint may be
little, too lateby the time China changes its
policy, more manufacturers will have moved plants to China.
Recycling is Not a Rare Earth Solution
It might seem that the mountains of electronic
waste would be a perfect source of rare earths.
But recycling isnt the answer to the rare earth
shortageat least not yet. Some
recyclers are successfully recovering rare earths
from compressors. But neither
Recyclers International (ERI), the two biggest
electronics recyclers in the US, are currently
recovering any rare earths in their recycling
process, according to SIMS president Steve Skurnac and ERI CEO John Shegerian.
For now, Skurnac says, Rare earths come in very
minute concentrations in electronic scrap, which
means that recyclers need high volume and super
efficient processes to recover any reasonable
amount of rare earths from electronics. The
technology just isnt there to make it
economically feasible for most recyclers.
Today, an American electronics company can only
be exempt from Chinas rare earth export quotas
by manufacturing within China. So thats what
most companies, including Apple, are doing. The
only other solution is for us to stop consuming
so muchan option that people rarely find
appealing. Not as appealing as a retina display, at least.
After reading this article, my conclusion is
Think carefully are you need the electronic before you buy it
By: <http://noneed>Some - April 20, 2012 at 2:41 am
You guys do such good work.
And we have Pentagon stockpiling to look forward to.
By: Ashwin - April 20, 2012 at 3:39 am
There is no real shortage of rare earths. There
is also no reason it all has to come from China
other than economics. There are significant
undeveloped deposits in both North America and
Australia. The only reason they have not been
used is because of the (previously) very cheap
price of the Chinese source. Now that China has
tried to use this for economic leverage things will and are changing.
By: Arron - April 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm
Thank you for opening my eyes about rare earth
metals. I used to volunteer for SIMS and ERI when
they held computer and electronic recycling
events in the NYC area. This is a great point to
use against anyone who thinks of reuse as an
afterthought and a nice-to-have. Reuse really
needs to be a heavy and serious component in any recycling program.
By: <http://fixerscollective.org>Vincent - April 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm
If the rare earths are in a magnet, why not
recycle the MAGNET material into a new magnet,
instead of trying to reclaim the rare earth
itself? Same for other materials where the rare
earth is an essential but tiny part of the whole.
By: <http://stmradio.com>Stan - April 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm
Hello! This is a very interesting article and I
would like to translate it into Spanish, have I your permission?
Thank you very much.
<http://www.translatedweb.com/es/users/nade>nade - April 26, 2012 at 11:40 am
Hopefully asteroid mining will alleviate this
problem. But, it will take a long time to get
there. What to do now? Not sure- but open pit
mining is bad news environmentally, same with mountain-top removal.
By: Roger - April 26, 2012 at 11:41 am
The sad thing is we have plenty of rare earth
minerals in North America, but a combination of
market manipulation by the Chinese, and our own
too often draconian envrio-regs have killed that
tech-enabling industry. And American companies
would be much more responsible to the environment
than their Chinese counterparts.
By: Thionite - April 26, 2012 at 11:45 am
This is what most people never want to find out
since the design of the electronics they are
buying are beautiful and extremely sophisticated.
Also letting us know that we not only care for
the design but also on how green this electronic
is once in our hands ignoring the impact the
production of this has on earth. However, it is a
win for the financial markets where these
electronics are going to be consume since they create so many jobs.
By: <http://www.tcinnotech.com>Stanley - April 26, 2012 at 11:45 am
The main reason there isnt more rare earth
development in the U.S. is the same reason there
isnt more oil/gas development in the U.S. EPA
over protection of one part of the environment,
the earth, over another part of the environment, humans.
By: Dave Bush - April 26, 2012 at 11:50 am
I dont think I need an iPad
By: <http://www.farmideas.co.uk>Mike Donovan - April 26, 2012 at 11:52 am
This article highlights a concern when you
consider the planned obsolescence which is a huge
part of Apples business ethos. They plunder the
environment for a product whic will be superseded
within 12 months, and they plunder the
environment again. But the majority of humans do not care.
I hope their Ipads can keept them warm and feed
their families when the earth is a contaminated
shrivelled ball struggling to sustain the 7 billion +,
By: Global Conscience - April 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm
Dear David Bush
I do not know if you fully comprehend the
situation but Humans need the earth. Earth does
not need the humans. Therefore it is vital Humans look after the Earth.
If we make the Earth a toxic swamp which kills us
and 90% of life from this little planet, Earth
will still exist and life will evolve to fill it.
So I for 1 thank the EPA for protecting the Earth
aginst anmals like yourself. And I for one hope
stongly that the United Nations will actially
grow balls one day, dissolve the right of Veto
from 3 meglomanic countries, and bring in true
democracy and rules across the whole Planet.
By: Cudacurl - April 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm
All consumer products we have access to is
nothing but crap. When the ipad1 was released
there was already the ipad2 with the camera etc..
By: doofus - April 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm
I think as a culture we have become too gadget
crazyIm a chief offender. I miss my old laptop
which suited me fine for years.
I didnt by the latest Ipad. The only reason I
have an Ipad is because it was a gift for an HVAC job.
Im glad people are talking about China and Apple.
In the endif you really want to reduce the carbon
in the atmosphereuse a condomWE HAVE
TOO MANY PEOPLE ON THIS EARTH.
If you were an extraterrestrial, who would you
thin out? Were just a bad branch of monkeys.
We will eventually ruin this planet if we dont stop
Sorrybut Ive wanted to say this for years.
By: dudley dowrong - April 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm
There is a twinge of guilt laced in here in your
piece which I find troubling. iFixit would not
exist without electronics. And theres nothing
bad or wrong with humans using the earths
resources to make our lives better. Thats what
humans do. And thats why we can focus on using
electronics instead of merely survival.
In the end, it will all be swallowed up in
glaciers, volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes and
earths destruction from a red giant sun. The
mankind is bad for mining a few rare earths
during a tiny insignificant slice of earths
history is just ridiculous. Im happy to be alive
now and to get to use technology. And everyone
else should be as well. Shivering in a cave
whilst breathing smoke from a wood fire is not cool.
By: Jeff B. - April 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm
You loose credibility when the heading
Screams:ALL OUR RARE EARTHS COME FROM A PIT MINE
IN CHINA and the paragraph states: China
currently controls 95-97% Granted thats most.
Aother statement, Cambridge engineering
professor Dr. Tim Coombs guesses , and are
possibly a neodymium alloy. causes me wonder if
you are using scare tactics or if you even know what you are talking about?
By: <http://Real-World-Systems.com>Dennis - April 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm
The BS is so deep in here I need a bath to get
the liberal stink off. Thank you MR. Obamy and
let not forget Ex-President Bush for ruining it
for us all. Oh, I almost forgot about MR. & Mrs.
Bily Bob Clinton and what did he do with that cigar again?
By: Dennis - April 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm
its not impossible to start manufacturing again
in the states, we just have to pay more ( a lot
more) for our goods .on top of paying taxes and insurance premiums.
By: sunny - April 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Waste of any kind is always a problem and yet we
manage to recycle sewage waste into drinkable
water because we have to, knowing it is a limited
resource. The manufacturing process of any
product should always be considered with
recycling in mind. Manufactures should be forced
to have a circle of life plan for the products
they produce regardless of where they are made.
If a product cant be recycled or reused then
find an alternative or dont build it until the
recycling issue is resolved in a responsible way.
Every atom that goes into those poducts came from
the Earth and we should find a way to put them
back and not just by dumping it in a landfill.
Also we should keep in mind that our old devices
will always be new to someone who has never had
one. So when you are done with that product,if it
works, pass it on and if it doesnt find someone
like me who repairs them using sites like iFixit.org as a guide.
Responsibility starts with you.
Thanks for reading my thoughts.
By: Joe Knudsen - April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm
We can all download Rare Earth from iTunes
By: MadMonk - April 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm
YOU THINK THATS BAD""
what about the news stories the mainstream media
kept quiet for years, now that their left wing
hero Steve Jobs is dead there stating to come
out, the media is starting to expose the truth
about Apple manufacturing plants. There were over
100 young 16 year Chinese girls (apple employees)
who made a suicide pact to protest the 14-16 hour
work days, and the management was forcing them to
take Prozac, large amounts. They were being raped
by the men in management. Apple had to remove all
windows from the second floor and up at all their
plants in china because the workers keep jumping
out and committing suicide. they work them 14-16
hours a day for .12 cents an hour and only get
one day off every 2 months. Think about that next
time you fire that old mac book pro up.
By: gary - April 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm
How about Canada? It has Rare Earth minerals and
is good at high tech manufacturing.
By: <http://www.foonut.com>Ron - April 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm
I dont think I need a human,
and in due course I dont need a world.
By: Jantim - April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm
The average suicide rate in the US is twice that
of the Foxconn factory it sounds bad until you
realise theres over 1 million employees there. I
just sold my 1st gen iPad for £230 so I dont
think youll find many of them thrown in the
recycle bin. Also today I set up a six year old
Mac as a server for a printing company Dell
servers are scrapped when they fall out of 3
years extended warranty, so I really think this
picking on Apple as a bad company is unfair.
Apple computers have a much longer lifetime than
PCs and that is far greener than the most efficient recycling.
By: John - April 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm
If the USA went back to the principle of the
American System of National Banking and
protectionism it could be the worlds leader in
all manufacturing, with a high standard of living
for all. Instead the American revolution is still
in its infancy, since currently it is the
traditional British Empire model of British Free
Trade (Globalization) that is destroying America.
The shortage of rare earth metals is a fraud,
they are not called rare because they are rare.
The USA has enough Nuclear waste, if it was
reprocessed to power the country for 800 Years,
and in this waste there is millions of times the
concentration of rare earths than found in the
richest natural ores. Nuclear power would also
solve the emissions problem of CO2, although Global Warming is Scientific Hoax.
By: Graham - April 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm
@John you say the average suicide rate in the
US is double that of the Foxconn factory and that
there are over one million employees there. There
are over 300 million people in the US, so the
Foxconn factory having half of the suicide rate of the US is VERY bad.
Macs lasting longer than PCs used to be true. Now
that they are being more mass produced, they fail
more often and sooner. This is coming from a Mac
tech. Apple products nowadays are planned to be
obsolete within a few years. Its sad because
Apple purports to be a green company but releases
a new product every year that people HAVE to have.
By: Ron - April 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm
I thought corning made the glass for apple iphone and ipads?
This is the one I am talking about:
By: <http://youtube.com>Core - April 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm
The U.S.G.A. has determined that there are ten
years supply of rare earth elements in Afganistan.
By: <http://mine>Jay - April 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm
Ive read all the ridiculous and sane comments
here and from what I read, recycling will not
save the earth from humans. I am not a recycling
fanatic nor am I anti-green. The truth is humans
are not a danger to the earth from a geological
prospective. Humans are insignificant to earths
survival. Thats not to say we shouldnt protect
the atmosphere and health of the humans who live
on mother earth. I suspect, from her article,
that Elizabeth is a environmental fanatic. I
never thought, when clicking through to read this
article, that it would actually be an
environmental argument since its from iFixIt.
Its really out of place for a tech audience and
I suspect Elizabeth has used it to satisfy her
personal feelings. There is nothing rare about
rare earth elements on the earth. Just like
diamonds, it comes down to economics. If
environmental organizations want to save the
earth and its atmosphere, then these
organizations should move to and headquarter in
China and India because that is where the real
problem is now and will be in the future. Instead
of rare earth materials prohibition maybe we
should figure out a solution to population
control since its the real danger to humans in
the long run. The earth will clean itself just
fine, including removing most of the destructive
life from it. Earth itself doesnt need our help.
By: Leo OCampo - April 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm
smells like the author has an equity interest in rare earth miners.
By: shaggy - April 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm
Youre more than welcome to do that, Nade.
- April 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm
Great article Elizabeth. Im a huge fan of Apple
products, which is why Im in favour of keeping on their case.
(are those social buttons at the top for sharing this article? lets see..)
By: <http://www.simonbarnett.co.za>Simon Barnett - April 27, 2012 at 12:28 am
But what about the old ipad is it any better.
By: bnlaster - April 27, 2012 at 12:54 am
Ron you misunderstand me, the yearly suicide rate
in the U.S. is 118 per million of the population
but there was only 18 deaths in the same period
at Foxcon. So per head of population there are
six times as many suicides in the US!
I too make my living supporting Mac users and
its simply not true that they are less reliable
these days. The iPad especially (which is what
this article is talking about) will last for much
longer since there is only a couple of buttons
and no other moving parts. Whats more, for a
reasonable price, Apple will swap them for a
refurb unit when the battery dies. LED backlit
screens last longer and new designs use so much
less electricity that its probably greener to
recycle a working G5 than to keep it running.
By: John - April 27, 2012 at 3:42 am
Leo, you said yourself that the iFixit audience
shouldnt be discussing environmental issues, in
your case I think youre dead right. You seem to
be quite ignorant on the subject. Ask yourself
why India and China are becoming the worlds
worst polluters its only because we outsourced
production to them and they are mostly making the
stuff for us in the West, not so much for
themselves. You still cant buy the new iPad in China.
By: John - April 27, 2012 at 4:05 am
Jeff B has it right the Earth will not be
around forever, the Sun will not last forever.
Im not saying trash the Earth now, but our
actions over the largely insignificant time we
have been on the planet simply alter climate
change, not cause it. The climate will change
regardless just as it always has, and only when
our survival depends on it will we adapt (if we can).
By: Chris - April 27, 2012 at 5:38 am
Blah, blah, blah. You greenies need to grow up
and realize that if you really had your way you
wouldnt even be able to read this.
You piss and moan about polluting the earth and
global warming, oops, climate change all on your
smart phones and tablets, over the internet, that
uses electricity, that comes from coal, thats a
natural resource. Should I go on?
Get a real life and do something productive on
this earth. Otherwise practice what you preach
and go live in a cave and leave us pro-humans alone.
By: SquelchQuelch - April 27, 2012 at 6:19 am
Thanks for the new info. It makes me feel glad
that I hold on to computers, upgrade part and
other things before replacing them. Ipads look
like a great device, but I havent convinced
myself that its something I need yet. Smart
phones however are tough not to have. But like
most of my gadgets, I keep them until they crap out. =)
By: <http://www.mextoyou.com/>Oscar - April 27, 2012 at 7:14 am
Well, if labor is so cheap in China as well as
the raw materials readily available there, then I
would expect that the Ipad 3 s price to be much
lower than the set price of $699 for the 64 gb model.
Unfortunately Apple controls the price of their Ipads worldwide.
By: Frank N' Footer - April 27, 2012 at 7:36 am
I dont agree with you. Rare earth is never
controled by China. The only reason is that rare
earth is cheaper in China than in usa.
By: bill gates - April 27, 2012 at 7:43 am
According to the second law of thermodynamics,
never had we a way to put things back without
entropy increment. So, we all just live our way
death. If you were affordable, you can buy any
ammount of iPads freely as you like, at least for thriving economy sack.
By: zighouse - April 27, 2012 at 7:49 am
This isnt just Apple/China, look up Conflict
Minerals or Three Ts Congo to learn the
alarming truth about our consumer electronic
supply chains and how some of our products come
from raw materials (rare earths) mined overseas
by people who are forced into labor, including
children, because militias control the mines and
maintain authority through abuse/violence.
Research this for yourself if you dont believe
me, but please educate others after doing so!
By: <http://glassocean.net>Perry Butler - April 27, 2012 at 8:39 am
And the Chinese have entered into long term
contracts for rare earths, metals and oils from around the world.
Well have to pay a premium to buy any.
These is after US based consulting companies told them how to do it.
By: John - April 27, 2012 at 9:56 am
Excellent information; I wish all this
information shared in this page could be posted
in other languages too because there is a lot of
people from other nationalities who are buying Ipads.
It could be great if you posted this information
in Spanish for start too. There are a lot Latinos who buy ipad in the market.
By: Sigy - April 27, 2012 at 10:09 am
re:dudley dowrong And I have been saying
italoudfor decades. We has met the enemy and they is US! (old Pogo strip)
A rare earth/strategic minerals company of
verifiable greenness is starting up right here in
northern Minnesota. Human innovation history
repeatedly shows a predilection for expediency :
a rush to market with little thought of
developing the idea(s) to an ultimate end result. Wheres the $$ in that?
By: Onnalee Graham - April 27, 2012 at 10:24 am
It all boils down to population control. On
Easter Island the population grew so large that
they had to eat the young trees as food. Without
the trees growing to maturity no dugout canoes
could be made to harvest fish. The survivors (the
rich I guess we would call them) were found dead
in their blocked safe caves.) The products we
make compete and deplete many of the same
resources humans require to live (oxygen and
carbon dioxide come immediately to mind.)
Ultimately we and our intelligent machines will
decide within the constraints imposed by Mother
Nature what the balance will be. Machines do have
the advantage that they can within a geologic
instant adapt to a new environment. An extreme
example is that they could live on an radioactive
cinder with an atmosphere deadly to nearly all biological life.
Politics and the little clay gods that man has
created can do nothing about this. Only human
critical thinking has a chance, and then if and
only if it is done before the machines reach self awareness.
By: Don Chicoine - April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am
Of course they are not recycling all the rare
earth metals from tiny electronics but its a start.
RARE EARTH ELEMENTS GETTING RECYCLED, FINALLY
By: kenneth lee - April 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm
i want to translate it to chinese do i need a permission
By: <http://WuHan.China>liam.lee - April 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm
We Chinese Gov is too weak to protect our
resource.It is not China that control the rare
earth,On the contrary,Its may other countries
where rare resource is cherished like USA that
control the rare earth.Chinese rare earth will
vanish someday,and so the gov begin to control
the export.Why say China control the rare earth
sounds like China is a greedy country?Its not fair.
By: <http://www.pureage.info>strider - April 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm
Go ahead, Liam. You dont need my permission, but you have it anyway!
- April 28, 2012 at 2:13 am
But the rest of the earth is not an island. We
will only run out of food if we are dumb enough
to listen to enviro-green nuts who wont let us
use the earths resources to grow more. Im
guessing the leaders of Easter Island outlawed energy first.
By: Jeff B. - April 28, 2012 at 5:44 am
Its interesting to know about such facts about
world economy you people doing great job keep continue .
By: Vijay Paigwar - April 28, 2012 at 8:34 am
So how does the plant in Brazil work again? Those
metals/elements/etc come from where?
By: <http://myfreakinname.blogspot.com>rufwork - April 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm
I call shenannigans on this one. The one thing
you learn about rare earths as soon as you look
around is they arent rare at all. China may have
momentarily cornered the market but there is
heaps of rare earths in Australia already found
just waiting to be dug up at the right price. Heaps.
By: Tim - April 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm
seems like if you wanted to get around export
quotas you would have a product made in china
which is the rare earth metal in an easily
dissoluble substrate. call it neodymium cubes or yttrium blox or something
By: austin - April 30, 2012 at 7:20 am
Youre right, Tim. Rare earths are anything but
rare, something we discussed in our
article on the rare earth topic. But because
theyre generally dispersed in tiny quantities
throughout the earths crust, theyre difficult
and expensive to mine and refine. Plus, the
refining process has a serious environmental
impact. The only rare earth mining operation in
the states, Molycorp, has begun mining again at
their California Mountain Pass facility, which
was shut down a decade ago partially as a result of environmental violations.
The problem with rare earths is not finding
deposits but rather being able to turn those
deposits into a product suitable for use in electronics, etc.
- April 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
On January 13, Kumara Bhikkhu <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Why the iPad Has to be Made in China
Hmmm, that post seems to be way off-topic, and also way too long
(a link to the original article would be better than posting the entire
article here -- especially since reposting other people's articles is
a violation of copyright)
Marc Martin wrote thus at 04:02 AM 15-01-13:
>On January 13, Kumara Bhikkhu <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Why the iPad Has to be Made in China
>Hmmm, that post seems to be way off-topic, and also way too long
>(a link to the original article would be better than posting the entire
>article here -- especially since reposting other people's articles is
>a violation of copyright)
This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by Kumara Bhikkhu
The author has deleted this message.
This post was updated on .
If one iPad with its toxic heavy metals and chemicals produce 285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions, can you imagine for one single ELECTRIC CAR and its HUGE battery?
It's a blatant joke that governments are now promoting ELECTRIC CARS and taking off petrol engines.
First, where does electricity come from?
Electricity is mostly generated by fossil fuels. It's a joke that electric cars are cleaner.
If most electricity came from renewable sources, that could be still a topic to consider...
But we'll still need loads of fossil fuels to produce electricity.
And more will be needed: as when you transform oil fuel to electrical power to transform it to mechanical power (to run a car), you 'lose' energy in the transformationS.
Much smarter is to only use one transformation, from fossil to mechanical directly!
The same lie and joke repeated zillions of times...Who knows that becomes truth?!!
If an iPad needs 285 times of its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions, a single electric car should be an ecological catastrophe on its own.
We are already concerned about using all our precious minerals / metals in cell phones.
Electric cars are huge compared to phones. Just imagine the size of the problem.
What do do with car batteries?
Cell phone recycling is also a joke.
90% of e-waste is dumped according to UN.
I hope electric cars will go not go into the e-waste statistics...
In reply to this post by DanStones
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