Can Apple AirPods Be Recycled? First You Have to Cut Them Open, Then Get a Band-Aid...

Apple AirPod
Courtesy of Apple

Apple AirPod

Apple believes the AirPod represents the future of wireless headphones. But what happens when those tiny (4-gram) devices, each with lithium-ion batteries glued inside, need to make the eventual trip to the recycling bin? The answer, essentially, is: ¯\_(?)_/¯

For an AirPod to be recycle-ready, the 93-milliwatt lithium battery would have to be removed before the rest of the device is shredded. According to Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of online repair community iFixit, his team dismantled the AirPod but discovered "no practical way" to open the glued-together gadget. "We tried heating them. Prying them. Even cutting them, which bloodied one of our engineers," he said in a guest post for Wired.

Given the difficulty in simply taking the AirPods apart, Wiens predicts Apple will most likely just give you a new device if you experience battery issues during your warranty period. (As previously reported, all other scenarios -- wear-and-tear, loss, post-warranty battery issues -- involve paying $69 for each replacement pod. A new pair costs $159.) "When manufacturers make batteries impossible to remove, they also make those products impossible to safely and profitably recycle," he said. "In other words, they disincentivize recycling."

While Apple has said the AirPods and all other devices can be returned to the company for recycling, it has yet to tell outside recycling firms how to open and remove batteries in a safe way, according to Wiens.

In its full review, iFixit gave the AirPods a repairability score of 0/10, given that simply accessing the device is impossible without first destroying the outer casing. Watch the teardown review below.


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