Just to make things clear – Apple’s new wireless headphones, the AirPods, are more than an excellent product that has been released after almost two months of delay. But recent reports are stating that they are very difficult to repair and recycle, and they are a fire hazard as well. A few recycling companies have confirmed that the Lithium-ion batteries that power these tiny headphones may spontaneously combust when you try to dispose of them.
Thanks to being a huge, worldwide known tech company, Apple is suffering a lot of attacks from environment protection watchdogs, more so for making their products so small and packing them tightly that makes disassembling and recycling almost impossible. Apple is trying to balance things out and be a more environment-friendly company, and that is why they have a lot of riding on these tiny headphones which weigh only 4 grams per piece, which are supposed to be the future of Apple’s listening devices.
If you didn’t know these come separately from the iPhone 7, and they use microphones, optical sensors, and a motion accelerometer for in-ear detection that is supposed to enable the best sound quality possible. The AirPods have been praised for their sound quality, noise canceling functions and ease of use (you do not need a Bluetooth to pair it to your smartphone) meaning you just need to bring your phone close to the open AirPods charging case. Yes, it is that easy. After that, you get a pop-up prompt asking you to pair, and thanks to the W1 chip inside each AirPod you are ready. The W1 chip is an incredible piece of tech because besides easily pairing your device to the headphones it also notifies you when the AirPods aren’t in ears anymore and automatically stops music playback.
Now on the topic of safety. Here, not everything is hearts and butterflies. These wireless headphones have three separate lithium-ion batteries, one is in each pod, and the third is in the charging case mentioned above. Recyclers are melting these for the copper inside, but the problem is with the lithium-ion batteries in AirPods that catch fire instantly when they are being destroyed, at least according to iFixit (they took apart the AirPods for testing purposes).
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit stated that “There could easily be a billion of these things over the next 10 years” which could very easily lead to the recycling problem, not even regarding the potential fire hazard. Willie Cade, CEO of Chicago-based PC Rebuilders & Recyclers also said that labor needed for removal of batteries would be extensive and would make them hard to be cost-effective, while on the other side if you throw them into the shredder “there’s a relatively high risk of fire.” Besides all of that, God forbid one of these brakes, it is nearly impossible to repair them without destroying their outer case which makes this practically a triple loose situation, but there is more. The price tag of course, which is $159 for a pair.