by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
In the beginning of July 2012, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a certification program for electronics that requires participating companies to meet certain environmental standards, announced that Apple had pulled all 39 of its laptops, monitors and desktop computers that had been certified from the program (the program does not yet cover mobile technologies like the iPhone and iPad).
By leaving the program, the Apple computers and monitors can no longer be purchased by the federal government and its agencies, which require that 95 percent of the electronics purchased be EPEAT certified. Talk about cutting off your nose in spite of your face.
Apple has decided to be designing away from green standards and I would suggest that those of us who are truly concerned about the environment find a different computer manufacturer and software that can be used on older models.
Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT said that Apple had said that their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements. He continued: “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore”.
EPEAT is designed to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of electronics manufacturing by requiring that products meet eight environmental 'performance categories,' including product lifetime, toxic materials, and recyclability of components and packaging materials. But even EPEAT, as far as I am concerned is not going far enough in its standard as repairability is not one of the requirements.
One major requirement for EPEAT certification is that a product must be easily disassembled with common tools for recycling but Apple, so it would appear, is turning away from easy recyclability. The new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, for example, is almost impossible to disassemble, which is necessary for both repair and recycling. Instead of using screws, Apple is now using industrial-strength glue to hold the battery and screen in place.
“If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery,” Frisbee said and noted that the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display would not have been eligible for certification.
One important thing to note is that while this new design does make it difficult, if not impossible for many recyclers to disassemble its products, Apple does have its own recycling program. The company has a long-standing contract with Sims Recycling, which would likely have the necessary tools to disassemble its products and properly recycle them. And they offer electronics recycling for free to anyone, regardless of the brand of electronics anyone might wish to be sending to them.
Apple products now appear to be designed for disposability, not repairability which is, unfortunately, so very common nowadays. If it is not a fact that things are glued in such a way that they cannot be opened and repaired they are fitted with screws that cannot be removed.
While there may still be a reliable way to recycle Apple products, the equally important issue is that by using this glue-it-down approach, the company is making its products unrepairable. As much as one can tout the quality and generally long lifetime of Apple products, if a user cannot replace things like the battery, screen or other parts when they die or break, ultimately forcing the consumer to buy something new instead of just replacing one part, then this is still a major environmental fail on the part of Apple.
Repairability is something that we must be aiming for with all products, the way it used to be in the “good old days” and we, as consumers, can force the companies to come up with the goods.