Sustainability

EPEAT awards Apple with green rating

Apple mac with retina display

Greenpeace has criticised the US-based environmental ratings system, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for “caving in” to public demand and “setting a dangerous trend” after it awarded ‘ultra-thin’ notebooks from technology firm Apple with its green rating.

The decision to certify the notebooks, which critics maintain are difficult to recycle, with the green credential comes just months after Apple u-turned on its decision to pull out of the scheme following criticism from its customers and a move by San Francisco’s city officials to ban future purchases of the company’s computers by government agencies.

Apple has not explained why it pulled out of the scheme but has since conceded that the move ‘was a mistake’.

EPEAT requires electronic products to be designed to enable easy recycling and increase energy efficiency, something that the new retina display and glued-in battery on the latest MacBook Pro is rumoured not to conform to.

However, EPEAT has now concluded that five different ‘ultra-thin’ notebooks, including the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, can be accredited as EPEAT registered. Other ‘ultra-thin’ notebook companies that made the list were Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Speaking of the decision to allow these notebooks on to the registry, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT said: “EPEAT is committed to foster greener electronics and to give purchasers the tools to evaluate green claims. The system’s rigorous environmental assessment processes result from a powerful stakeholder collaboration that includes purchasers, environmental advocates, government, manufacturer, recycler and academic participants. This latest series of stringent investigations demonstrates the power of that approach.”

According to a statement from EPEAT, the decision was reached after a ‘lengthy review’, which included requesting standard disassembly instructions from each product manufacturer and commissioning a technical test lab to disassemble them according to the instructions provided. Results from this test found that the total disassembly time for each of the products was under 20 minutes and that the time to remove the battery was between 30 seconds and two minutes.

EPEAT concluded that as the disassemblers were not trained recycling personnel, these times would ‘probably exceed’ those of a skilled recycler, and accordingly found that all products were in conformance with EPEAT requirements.

EPEAT “sets a dangerous trend”

The decision has angered environmentalists, including Greenpeace, whose IT analyst, Casey Harrell, accused EPEAT of bending its rules to allow the ‘ultra-thin’ notebooks (ultrabooks) onto the registry.

In a statement released by the environmental organisation, Harrell said: "Apple wanted to change the EPEAT standards when it knew its MacBook Pro with Retina Display would likely not qualify for the registry in July of this year – now EPEAT has reinterpreted its rules to include the MacBook Pro and ultrabooks. Is it a coincidence?

"It's unclear why EPEAT caved in, but the impact is that EPEAT has confused consumers and businesses who want to buy green electronics that can be repaired and will last a long time, and sets a dangerous trend for the burgeoning market of ultrabooks."

Harrell went on to say that the approved notebooks are still too hard to disassemble: “Consumers will not risk violating their product warranty to change a battery using instructions they don't have with tools they don't own, and are sure to conclude that the entire process is too complicated and instead buy a new product. The result will be electronics with a shorter lifespan and more e-waste.

"Electronics need to be designed so that people can upgrade and repair them as easily as possible. If companies can't make products that can be easily fixed, they shouldn't be sold", he added.

Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield, has emphasised that Apple is more committed than ever to its environmental responsibilities: “It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.”