Apple AirPods

overall rating:



Vanessa Le
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Premium pricing for mediocre sound quality and a short life expectancy makes AirPods a huge bargain for most consumers. Apple is turning earphones, once an affordable option, into a financially and environmentally taxing product in exchange for a symbol of disposable wealth.

What it's made of:


  • AirPods are composed of several raw materials like copper, cobalt, aluminum, nickel, and silicone plastic.
  • There are allegations that Apple is taking advantage of child labor in Congo and Bolivia to mine cobalt. Not until Sky News aired footages of child labor that Apple decided to end contracts with these third-party audits.
  • Not to mention the mining of cobalt has led to deforestation, land degradation, decline in biodiversity, and many other environmental damages. Of course it is difficult to implicate Apple directly to these responsibilities, but the company should not be vindicated either.

How it's made:


  • After raw materials acquisition, human labor is essential in the assembling process. Apple has factories mainly in Vietnam whose labor made up 30% of Apple hardware production. Most of them are paid minimum wage (which does not equate to a livable wage).
  • Having intercontinental moving parts means transportation is an essential part in Apple’s manufacturing cycle. Aircraft distribution, run by oil, contributes to 2.4% of global CO2 emissions.
  • Most components of a pair of AirPods cannot be recycled, despite Apple offering a trade-in program to recycle used AirPods. iFixIt ranks the repairability of an AirPod 0 out of 10. Internal repairment requires the dismantling of the outer casing which would destroy the entire AirPods.

Who makes it:


Apple is a leading tech company that revolutionized the way modern technology interacts with our daily lives. Over the past few years, Apple has made substantial effort in reducing its carbon footprint throughout the supply chain. The company’s 2018 Environmental Report boasts that they have lowered their comprehensive carbon footprint by 35% as compared to 2015. Greenpeace, an international environmental organization, awards Apple to be the most environmentally-friendly tech corporate in the world, giving it an A in each of these following subcategories:

  • energy transparency
  • renewable energy commitment
  • energy efficiency and mitigation
  • renewable procurement.

However, there seems to be a disparity between Apple’s impressive sustainability ranking with the quality of its AirPods. To be frank, the company’s sustainability effort remains elitist as its premium pricing makes it inaccessible for consumers to maintain the longevity of Apple products. The battery life of a pair of AirPods averages around 18 months before it starts to deteriorate. To repair with warranty, Apple charges $48 for one bud. Together it’s $96. The cost to fix a pair of AirPods is enough to buy JBL Sports Wireless Earphones while still left with some money for two celebratory Big Mac’s. Without warranty, replacing each bud and its charging case cost $38 more than buying a brand new pair. For customers, it would make more economic sense to get a new pair of Airpods than paying for the repair. Apply has sold 1.4 billion pairs of earbuds since its premiere in 2016. Not only is electronic waste an emerging environmental issue, out of 3.4 million tons of e-waste generated in America in 2012, only 29% of them are properly recycled. Those remain in the landfills may lead to acidic wastewater contamination.