Earth Week: New effort against environmental harms of “disposable” tech, starting with Apple AirPods

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NEW YORK – This Thursday, during Earth Week, advocates are launching a new effort targeting unrepairable, and therefore disposable, devices, starting with Apple AirPods. According to a recent report from the United Nations, our surging electronic waste is a crisis, and new manufacturing is growing five times faster than our recycling capacity

Due to the way they are designed, once their battery dies, AirPods can’t be repaired. PIRG is calling on Apple to make AirPods repairable with replaceable batteries, and has launched a petition for Apple to “…redesign AirPods with replaceable batteries and to commit to release only repairable products.”

“No piece of electronics should be designed to die,” said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, U.S. PIRG Designed to Last campaign director. “Once their glued-in batteries no longer hold a charge, we’re stuck in a cycle of buy, die, repeat. It’s unconscionable that we can’t replace the battery on a $249 pair of headphones, which is guaranteed to wear out.”

Apple is far from the only manufacturer to sell products with non-removable batteries. iFixit noted in their review of products from CES, the largest electronics trade show, that a slew of similar non-repairable earbuds are entering the market. 

But Apple’s decision to prevent battery replacement has a huge impact because Apple headphones are so popular, used by 33% of consumers. 

“It’s clear that Apple is a trend-setter, but more short-lived electronics is not the trend we deserve,” added Gutterman. “It’s time for Apple to start a trend toward products we can fix.” 

Other manufacturers make longer-lasting wireless earbuds. Earlier this month, Fairphone released their wireless headphones FairBud, designed with replaceable batteries in their case and each earbud. The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and Sony WH-1000XM series are also more repairable than AirPods.

As global concern about the impact of electronic waste grows, PIRG has supporting measures that make it easier to fix devices, and to ensure that electronic products are made to last, not designed for the dump. 

“With Americans disposing of more than 16,000 jumbo jets’ worth of e-waste every year, we need to end our cycle of buy, use, toss,” Gutterman said. “We deserve better than a world where nothing’s built to last.”


PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is an advocate for the public interest. We speak out for a healthier, safer world in which we’re freer to pursue our own individual well-being and the common good.