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Apple to turn Chinese suppliers green with environmental programs

BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Apple is striving assist suppliers in China achieve the ambitious goal of zero waste, while promoting its clean water and solar power programs steadily across the country, according to an Apple executive.

The waste diversion program, which the tech giant started with its suppliers last year, has been rolled out in 18 final assembly plants in China, said Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple.

She is in Beijing to meet Apple's partners, including Tsinghua University, to discuss innovation and environmental projects.

"We set a goal to move our suppliers as close as possible to zero waste," Jackson told Xinhua.

Depicting it as both hard and interesting work, Jackson said the final assembly plants are learning to deal with waste from food remains in worker canteens to the various packaging of component parts in a very different way.

"They are working with the shippers to return the packaging rather than throw it in the trash and waste it," Jackson said, adding that they also use reusable or biodegradable trays to carry the parts.

Around 50,000 metric tons of waste has been diverted as a result of hard work in the first year. "I think suppliers love it, because it really helps to cut down their costs," Jackson said.

Apple has achieved "zero-waste" at its factory in Cork, Ireland and is determined to help all assembly plants in China meet this ultimate goal as well. "We haven't given them a deadline," Jackson said, "But when Apple works hard on something, we can usually accomplish it."

Apple has, in recent years, shown a strong resolution to improve the environmental impact of its supply chain, which is responsible for 72 percent of its total carbon footprint.

"We believe that what we do for ourselves at home is also what we have to do with members of our supply chain," Jackson said.

In the past two years, Apple has been promoting the Clean Water Program among its suppliers in China, with the number of suppliers covered by the program up from 13 in 2013 to 73 by 2015.

Currently, Apple has 334 suppliers in China.

"The program has helped to save 3.8 billion gallons of fresh water since 2013," Jackson said, explaining that the first thing is to cut water use by eliminating leaks, waste and innovating recycling methods, and then to make sure that the waste water treatment facilities at the suppliers are designed, operated and maintained properly.

"We spend quite a bit of time in training our suppliers to have the necessary expertise," Jackson added.

Apple is also looking to help power its suppliers with renewable energy. "We are building an additional 200 megawatts of new solar power projects in China, with 170 megawatts now under construction in Inner Mongolia," Jackson said.

Foxconn, one of Apple's top suppliers, is building 400 megawatts of solar power projects in Henan Province to generate as much clean energy as its Zhengzhou factory consumes in final production of the iPhone, which is expected to be completed by 2018, she said.

Apple saw its first 40-megawatt solar power project in China completed in October last year, which is generating enough energy to power all of Apple's 19 offices and 31 retail stores in China, including four stores in Hong Kong.

"As Apple's facilities in China use 100 percent renewable energy, all the new clean energy that comes online is for our suppliers," Jackson said.

"We've committed to a total of two gigawatts of new clean energy. We still have 1,400 megawatts to go and we are working on a number of projects across China," she added.

The company is also working with the World Wildlife Fund to create and preserve six million mu (400,000 hectares) of sustainable forest in Hunan, Yunnan, Fujian, Guangdong provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"The idea is to create jobs in the sustainable paper making industry," Jackson said, "We could buy our paper from China instead of somewhere else for packaging."

"We've been very busy on the environmental front, because it's one of our core values," she said.

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