When Apple announced that it collected 2,204 pounds of gold from old electronics through its recycling programs in 2015, headlines speculated that the company made $40 million in the process. That wasn't true: To comply with producer responsibility laws, Apple pays recyclers to handle piles of old gadgets. The value of precious metals might help offset that cost, but it isn't a way to rake in cash.
In fact, traditional recycling—which shreds down old gadgets and then attempts to separate old materials such as gold—is a poor way to recover either the value of components or the environment footprint it took to make them. But recycling is beginning to evolve.