Why Apple’s iPad has to be made in China

“There’s a lot of stuff in the iPad: aluminum and glass, of course, but also other heavy metals and toxic chemicals. And manufacturing each 1.44-pound iPad results in over 285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions,” Elizabeth Chamberlain writes for Motherboard. “The manufacturing of and material used in the iPad are two reasons why the iPad must be made in China — and not just in the ways you’d expect.”

“Yes, labor is dirt cheap in China… And yes, environmental regulations in China are pretty minimal (though improving),” Chamberlain writes. “But there’s another important reason why Apple and other manufacturers have their heels stuck in Chinese mud. iPad manufacturing, like the manufacturing of other electronics, requires a significant amount of rare earth elements, the 17 difficult-to-mine elements used in all kinds of green technology.”

Chamberlain writes, “Why is all this rare earth consumption a problem? China currently controls 95- to 97-percent of the world’s supply of rare earths and has repeatedly cut export quotas, sending already – high prices skyrocketing… Facing growing concern about the possibility of a rare earth shortage, President Obama recently lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China about their rare earth policy. Some specialists think the complaint may be ‘too little, too late’ — by the time China changes its policy, more manufacturers will have moved plants to China… Today, an American electronics company can only be exempt from China’s rare earth export quotas by manufacturing within China.”

Read more in the full article, including why recycling rare earth elements is not currently a viable option, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Thelonious Mac” for the heads up.]

38 Comments

  1. ” iPad manufacturing, like the manufacturing of other electronics, requires a significant amount of rare earth elements, the 17 difficult-to-mine elements used in all kinds of green technology.”

    This is interesting. So in order to be green, Apple must make products in China? Am I reading that correctly?

        1. Should have added that I suspect that most of those rare earth materials are required for the semiconductor components.

          Those elements are also used in photovoltaic panels and such. Hence the “green” angle. The use of “green” was awkwardly introduced in the article.

    1. As a former microelectronics packaging engineer all I can say is that this is the biggest outright lie I have read about the microelectronics process in a long time. If a vapor degreaser alone lost that much fluid per iPad…the plants would go bankrupt buying cleaning fluid.

      This lady is obviously a liberal/M$ hack trying to get unnecessary regulations conveyed onto Apple’s products.
      THIS IS B$ so listen for it on TAML on PRI.

      just my $0.02

  2. China is the world leader in supply chain management. American workers are too lazy, demanding, drug-dazed, over-stressed, have self-control issues, need to be excited and entertained all the time and too self-absorbed to manufacture precision equipment like iPads, iPhones, etc. the Bush administration stopped investing in infrastructure, innovation, research and development, choosing to buy senior votes with more entitlements and going to war, which created thousands of jobs, many high-paying security jobs in Washington and Baghdad. We gave away our greatet strength to China via Wal-Mart’s investments in cheap, useless, Chinese trinkets and clothing. So, until Americans decide that we want to make Apple products cheaper and better than the Chinese or the Brazilians can, we won’t be making any iPads, iPhones or any of the other top technology products in the world today. If you want to make America stronger, start with yourself, don’t whine about others. Rant over. Good night.

    1. Apparently, you didn’t bother reading the article.

      …”China currently controls 95- to 97-percent of the world’s supply of rare earths and has repeatedly cut export quotas”

      (from the above article) Without those rare earths, there are no iPads. No matter how much willing and able work force you may have waiting in line for the iPad assembly jobs in America.

    2. You don’t have to convince Americans, just the politicians that make hay over race, taxation, paying those that dont work, and lowering the bar in education so everybody can feel good.

          1. No, the massive deficits over the last few years are not acceptable. But that does not obviate the poor decisions that Bush made over eight interminable years. Misdirection will not alter the Bush legacy, and Romney is not a conservative pill that will magically change the status quo, even if the voters are willing to swallow it. Keep on dreaming of the far right, but the country does not have that sharp of a turning radius.

          2. Those who are advocating a hard line, all or nothing stance from the far right are highly likely to get nothing. The people will not tolerate this obstructionist unwillingness to compromise. Quit signing pledges and start doing your job!

        1. We dump the assdumb Kenyan in November. Worse than Jimmy Carter and LBJ combined. We need to also lose his lapdog chimps Eric Holder and fsckup Nancy Pelosi. Romney for 8 years, then Jeb Bush for 8 years will fix the damage the Kenyan Orangoutang has caused.

    3. We make cars and airplanes in this country. Both products are far more complex than an ipad/iPhone. In the case of airplanes most of the work is done by union members.

      You can build an ipad with low skilled employees, you can’t do that with an airplane.

      Precision? Aircraft are in the upper echelon of precision. Everything has tight specs.

      1. Lest we forget: Boeing outsourced a large part of their Dreamliner aircraft to foreign partners.

        The LA Times states: “The 787 has more foreign-made content — 30% — than any other Boeing plane, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the union representing Boeing engineers. That compares with just over 5% in the company’s workhorse 747 airliner.”

  3. Not until the rare earth mines in Malaysia and California open, will China’s hammerlock on rare earth metals be unlocked. Of course, China did this exactly to force manufacturing into China.

  4. These elements aren’t actually rare, they just take more trouble to mine. We have plenty here in this country and we’ll recover them when it is cost-effective to do so.

  5. This might be a reason in favor of manufacturing in China. It is not required that Apple ( or anyone else ) manufacture there. China has restricted export of rare earths. But they can be mined elsewhere. Mines in the western US are in the process of reopening. Recently vast amounts of rare earths were found on the sea floor off the coast of Hawaii. Resource management is a complex issue with long lead times.

  6. Let’s see if I’ve got this right…

    “…manufacturing each 1.44-pound iPad results in over 285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions,”

    …and then this:

    “iPad manufacturing, like the manufacturing of other electronics, requires a significant amount of rare earth elements, the 17 difficult-to-mine elements used in all kinds of green technology.”

    So…in order for a single iPad to be manufactured in a “green” sort of way, it has to be done in a country with little environmental regulation, with 400lbs of greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere… would that be about right…??
    Something seems contradictory to me in this entire equation.

  7. The rare earths issue in China is more complicated than usually presented in the Western press. The reason China currently dominates production is because rare earth extraction is highly damaging to the environment and the developed countries have been content to let China foot the pollution bill in their stead. Now that China needs more of the rare earths for their own domestic industry, they see no good reason why other states should continue to get, in effect, a subsidized price.

  8. 1-Rare Earth minerals are widely available in the United States although they are more expensive to process because of radioactive contaminants.
    2-The sea floor contains large deposits of rare earth minerals.
    3-If we b-slapped China and told them to consume their own sh*t they might stop trying to use rare earth minerals as an economic weapon. Of course that would require a government that is not for sale to the highest bidder/contributor.

  9. C’mon people, if Apple had to make any product in the good ol’ USA, we’d have to pay double the price. It would be all undocumented aliens on the assembly line… the first illegal to slip on a banana peel in the cafeteria would result in a crazy lawsuit. Unions and litigation have ruined this country and Apple is smart to stay far away from the US to manufacture it’s products.

    1. 7% of workers in the United States are in Unions and the bulk of those are Government Employees- not factory workers. Explain just how they are responsible for the ills of US manufacturing?

      1. It’s more like 12%. But, regardless, you are a fool to think the US can manufacture Apple products, better and less expensive than China. Santa has elves, US has China.

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