Apple removes 39 products from “green electronics” certification

Sat, Jul 7, 2012


It’s no secret that one of Apple’s primary goals when it comes to product design  is to strive for thinner, lighter, and more robust products with each passing refresh cycle. And as Apple has gotten successful in this regard, repairing and recycling Apple products has gotten increasingly more challenging, and in the case of the recently released Retina Display MacBook Pro, nearly impossible.

To that end, Apple has asked the Environmental Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to remove its products from their list of green products according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.

Apple asked EPEAT, the electronics standards setting group, to pull its 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops, which included past versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, off the list of green products late last month, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT told CIO Journal. EPEAT, created through funding by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and manufacturers, awards products a seal to certify they are recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.

Explaining the decision, Frisbee explained that Apple’s “design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements.”

Again, in an effort to create sleek and ever thinning products, Apple has made design decisions that don’t necessarily jibe with recyclability. The Retina Display MacBook Pro is the most recent and obvious example. Upon tearing down the device, iFixit found that the LCD is basically the entire display assembly and that the machine itself was virtually impossible to repair. What’s more, the batteries are glued into place, the RAM is soldered to the logic board – essentially, this isn’t a machine that can be torn open and separated into recyclable and non recyclable parts.

“If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery,” Frisbee explained.

This might naturally leave some of the more environmentally conscious among us perturbed, but Apple’s ultimate goal is to design and deliver the best products it can, and sometimes that means products that aren’t terribly recycle friendly.

Overall, there are many standards layed out by EPEAT that manufacturers need to abide by to attain certification. These include restrictions on the use hazardous substances, the reduction of toxics in packaging, and the one that Apple runs afoul of, the ability for a machine to be “disassembled for recyclablility”.

iFixit notes:

Specifically, the standard lays out particular requirements for product “disassemble-ability,” a very important consideration for recycling: “External enclosures, chassis, and electronic subassemblies shall be removable with commonly available tools or by hand.” Electronics recyclers need to take out hazardous components such as batteries before sending computers through their shredders, because batteries can catch fire when punctured.

The upside, though, are products that can amaze and impress. To wit, here is iFixit’s take on the MacBook Pro’s Retina Display, recycling concerns aside.

The Retina display is an engineering marvel. Its LCD is essentially the entire display assembly. Rather than sandwich an LCD panel between a back case and a piece of glass in front, Apple used the aluminum case itself as the frame for the LCD panel and used the LCD as the front glass. They’ve managed to pack five times as many pixels as the last model in a display that’s actually a fraction of a millimeter thinner. And since there’s no front glass, glare is much less of an issue.

So what say you, folks? Is it worth it for Apple to push the boundaries of industrial design and computing at the expense of creating products that lend themselves towards recycling?

Bear in minds that Apple’s mobile devices – the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch – aren’t EPEAT certified either.



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