iPhone 5 is a green rock star

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Looks like Apple (s AAPL) is actually delivering on its claims that it sells some of “the most environmentally responsible products in our industry” — at least when it comes to the latest iPhone. According to an eco-themed tear down from ifixit and HealthyStuff, the iPhone 5 has far fewer toxic chemicals compared to other new cell phones on the market.

It wasn’t always so, the second generation iPhone was far worse than other phones. The report says:

The iPhone has undergone a steady, gradual toxic chemical improvement in the last five years: the iPhone 2G received the worst overall score of all ranked phones, but the iPhone 4 and 5 are now among the top ten percent of phones.

Nice work. Cell phone manufacturers overall are reducing the amount of toxic chemicals used, and continue to make pledges to cut the worst offenders. See the image below for the overall reductions:

But now that the amount of chemicals is being reduced, the biggest problem is recycling. These devices can potentially leach toxic chemicals into the ground, so need to be removed from landfills and recycled or reused. Unfortunately only 8 percent of cell phones in the U.S. are recycled.

The iPhone 5 isn’t only making progress on green materials, it’s also one of the most energy efficient cell phones out there. It only costs $0.41 to charge an iPhone 5 for the entire year, according to a report from OPower. That’s a tiny amount of energy compared to laptops, desktops and TVs.

However, cell phone energy becomes a problem when you think about it in mass. The report says that “the collective annual electricity consumption of the iPhone 5’s sold within 12 months will be equivalent to the annual electricity usage of 54,000 US household.”

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Eric Schlissel

I hope other phone manufacturers follow their lead. It’s disappointing how few cell phones are recycled, given the amount of toxic chemicals in each phone.

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