Apple's Smaller Charging Connectors Don't Have to be a Big Waste Problem

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Apple’s new charging connector for the iPhone 5 is credited in part with helping Apple create its thinnest phone design yet. However the new, slim-line port means millions of current Apple accessories will need an adapter to work with the iPhone 5 or become unusable – a shift that could potentially funnel a wave of old tech into the recycling and waste streams.

Innovation and demand create a rapid turnover of electronic products. Apple’s update is a just recent example of a single change having a larger scale impact on consumers and their electronics, as Apple has ditched its 30-pin docking port connector used for iPods, iPhones and iPads for nearly a decade in favor of the smaller, narrower ‘Lightning’ connector.

This kind of modification affects not just your access to chargers, but a wide variety of popular accessories used in your daily life such as factory installed car adaptors and iHome products like alarm clocks and stereo systems that were built to accommodate original iPod and iPhone docking.

A large phase-out of outdated technology can unfortunately mean an influx of electronics going to waste if the technology wasn’t designed with recycling in mind for end-of-life.
In 2011, the U.S. electronics recycling industry processed 4.4 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics equipment. Much more was available for recycling, but ended up being disposed of as waste or languished in basements and storage areas.

ISRI, as the trade association representing the scrap recycling industry, is a proponent of responsible manufacturing and suggests it begins with product design that results in better solutions to the environmental challenges faced at each stage of a product’s life. ISRI has even created its own Design for Recycling Award to recognize products designed with recycling in mind.

While manufacturers continue to make new products, hopefully with sustainability in mind, as a consumer, there are plenty of ways to keep up with latest and greatest from the tech world without contributing to the waste stream.

Adaptors

Apple offers two kinds of adapters that can be used to keep your previous generation accessories iPhone 5-compatible. The first is the Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter ($29) which is compact and snaps on to your devices. The second is the Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter (0.2m) ($39) which offers the same service, but offers a 7.8 inch wire extension from the device. If you’re willing to invest, an adapter can extend the use of most of the accessories you already own.

Freecycle

Not everyone replaces their electronics at the same pace, and plenty of people are still using earlier generation products. See if your friend, co-worker or family member could use an extra charger or accessory. Giving your accessories to someone who will still use them helps maximize their life-span and keeps them from being discarded while they are still useful.

Recycle

If you’ve got electronics or accessories you’re not going to hold on to, check out your local recycling options so they don’t go to waste. For iPhone accessories you can also check with your cell phone retailer, manufacturer or service provider as many have ongoing recycling programs.

Recycling facilities will refurbish, reuse or recycle your electronics equipment which not only helps keep it out of landfills, but also allows for the valuable materials they contain to be recovered as well. Using a certified recycler is important because it offers additional support and efficiency (and privacy, depending on what you are recycling) which helps take the guess work off your shoulders.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. ISRI is one of these partners.

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