Sunday, April 17, 2016

Apple's amusingly round reuse figures

If you take a look at Apple's Environment page you might well be impressed by the amount of reuse Apple is getting by taking back devices. The numbers look great:

What's weird about these numbers is that they are round numbers. In fact they are very simple, round numbers. You just have to be using the right units.

Just look at that... 2,204 lbs of gold.

But wait! Isn't 1kg roughly 2.204 lbs? (Why, yes. It's 2.20462 lbs). So, sounds like Apple recovered 1,000 kg of gold. Now take a look at tin... 4,408 lbs... 2,000 kg. And silver... 6,612 lbs... 3,000 kg. And lead... 44,080 lbs... 20,000 kg.

Here are the figures above converted to kg using 1 kg = 2.204 lbs.

Steel    28,101,000 lbs = 12,750,000 kg
Plastics 13,422,360 lbs = 6,090,000 kg
Glass    11,945,680 lbs = 5,420,000 kg
Aluminum  4,518,200 lbs = 2,050,000 kg
Copper    2,953,360 lbs = 1,340,000 kg
Cobalt      189,544 lbs = 86,000 kg
Zinc        130,036 lbs = 59,000 kg
Lead         44,080 lbs = 20,000 kg
Nickel       39,672 lbs = 18,000 kg
Silver        6,612 lbs = 3,000 kg
Tin           4,408 lbs = 2,000 kg
Gold          2,204 lbs = 1,000 kg

Every single number given by Apple is an exact number of metrics tons (tonnes).

It's doubtful that Apple obtained precisely 1,000 kg of gold or 86,000 kg of cobalt. My guess is someone in Apple came up with rounded figures and they got converted to lbs for public consumption.

In the process they ended up looking precise.

One mystery remains. The total recovered is 27,839,000 kg which is 61,357,156 lbs (using 1kg == 2.204 lbs). But Apple reports an extra 644 lbs (total 61,357,800 lbs). I'll send a copy of my book, The Geek Atlas, to the first person to send me a convincing argument where those 644 lbs came from.

PS This comment points out that the UK Apple site gives the figures in tonnes.

PPS Another comment points out that the Australian Apple site appears to have converted back from lbs to kg.

PPPS Khalil Kacem (and below) has a convincing answer to the 644 lbs question. He gets the book.