Apple Sues Over Bogus Recycling

John Lister's picture

Apple is suing a recycling company it suspects of reselling more than 100,000 devices rather than disposing of them. It warns they may have been rebuilt with counterfeit components that pose a safety risk.

In a three year period, Apple sent more than 500,000 iPads, iPhones and Apple Watches to GEEP Canada for recycling. However, it later carried out a security audit and discovered Apple products were being stored at the recycling center in a separate location, and that this location wasn't covered by security cameras.

Apple then checked its database and scanned online where it found 18 percent of the devices were still connected to cellphone networks, suggesting not only that they hadn't been recycled but that they were still in use. The actual number may have been higher as Apple could only check for devices with LTE data connections.

Rogue Workers 'Risked Safety'

GEEP blames three rogue employees and says it will sue them to recover costs if it loses the case. However, Apple alleges they were actually senior management figures.

Apple believes the scammers took faulty or outdated equipment and refurbished it with counterfeit parts before reselling it. While that's certainly a form of recycling, Apple says such practices are completely against its policies because the counterfeit parts could lead to electrical or battery defects.

The lawsuit demands recovery of all profits made from selling the devices plus $22.7 million in compensation.

Apple Turns to Robots

GEEP Canada is now owned by Quantum Lifecycle which has stressed it is not part of the lawsuit and has never employed the alleged culprits. (Source:

Since ditching its contract with GEEP, Apple has taken more of its recycling in-house. It has built two dedicated robots which are custom-made to retrieve valuable components and materials from specific iPhone models. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you concerned about what happens to electronic devices once you dispose of them? Does this case show devices could be refurbished in more cases rather than broken down and recycled? Would you buy such a device or would safety concerns put you off?

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David's picture

How likely is it that there is a real risk due to counterfeit parts? Given half a million devices, scrapping five devices to make one - all from authentic parts - isn't that far fetched.

matt_2058's picture

This should depend on what their recycling contract says. Does it say disassemble and/or recycle is such a way that components cannot be used as intended? Or is it for them to accept up to 'x' amount for recycling, with Apple being assured that they will be able to dispose of the items? And understood the items would be destroyed for raw material value?

Sure, this case shows that devices could be refurbed instead of totally scrapped. Isn't almost every refuse stream that way though? Remember that these guys were refurbing and profiting from FREE raw materials, apparently as a side job. Would it be a viable legitimate business, where everything is done on the up & up? Real business that complies with laws, employees, has overhead, etc.

Only Apple knows which devices were scrapped for safety reasons. And where the problem lies. So, a refurber without that knowledge could repair a screen and not know there's a problem with a overheating battery. The unlucky buyer gets burned or set on fire. And Apple, who did the right thing and removed the phone from use last year is now facing a lawsuit.

I'm sure Apple wants to protect the reputation & quality of their products. And this type of operation damages that.

One thing I'd like to see is the accountability for shell companies. GEEP now owned by Quantum? It's very convenient to transfer ownership of a co. to avoid consequences of bad decisions.