Apple removes EPEAT environmentally friendly certification from their products

Apple removes EPEAT environmentally friendly certification from their products

Apple has removed the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) certification from 39 of their product lines, including displays and computers. The Wall Street Journal quotes Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT:

“[Apple] said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” Frisbee said. The company did not elaborate, Frisbee said. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

The general assumption seems to be that with products like the new iPad and the Retina MacBook, Apple's design and manufacturing process is emphasizing thinness and lightness over recyclability and repairability. This may or may not matter to consumers, who are increasingly faced with disposable, appliance-like consumer electronics. However, some private and public organizations require EPEAT certification for bulk purposes.

Would these organizations bend or break their own rules just to get Apple products on the floor? It likely doesn't matter. There's no EPEAT certification for tablets or smartphones, and the iPad and iPhone comprise the vast majority of Apple's earnings. Even for Macs, consumer purchases likely dwarf organizational buying.

EPEAT is also only part of the typical environmental checklist Apple presents during new product announcements. Whether Apple decides they're important enough to go with a different certification, to create their own, or ultimately to blaze ahead with no particular environmental certification remains to be seen. My guess is Apple's priorities lie elsewhere, and the value they get from pursuing new products like the Retina MacBook Pro vastly outstrip any benefits they got from hanging out someone else's thumbs-up pin.

iMore's own Ally Kazmucha, who also operates iOS device repair shop, PXLFIX, has previously taken issue with Apple's increasing divergence from repairable technology, as has iFixit's Kyle Wiens writing for Wired, and Richard Gaywood at TUAW.

Apple does run their own recycling program. Given Apple's market, the loss of EPEAT isn't a big deal. Given that same market, however, how Apple pursues recyclability in the future certainly still is.

We'll have to watch and see.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Apple removes EPEAT environmentally friendly certification from their products

17 Comments

Not at all. In my experience, and friends/family members, our Apple products last longer than their Wintel counterparts. Is lifespan taken in to account? That, to me, is one of the possibly overlooked side effects of some "green" efforts. 

For organizations which purchase in quantity, the reverse is often true.  The reason is separate but related to EPEAT standards, and one also crippled by Apple's direction in design -- recyclability of components.  Upgradable components not only let you extend the lifespan of a device, but let you re-use good parts from retired/damaged systems to repair and extend the life of other systems.   This may not be important to an individual, or even to a small shop, but, when you are dealing with a pool of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of boxes, those savings add up.

I don't think this will have a significant impact on the sale of Apple products at all.  That's not to suggest that this isn't important.  Apple will still be using the same recyclable materials; the issue is that the glues used (in lieu of traditional "ugly and bulky" screws) typically render those same materials non-recyclable.  Is meeting EPEAT standards limiting innovation? Are there ways that the recycling process and industry can be improved, upgraded, etc. for today's (and tomorrow's) types of minimalistic designs?
This is one of those things that will get many in a soapbox-fueled frenzy, but at the end of the day won't really deter customers.  Is that a good thing, or what that says about people as "consumers" - I'm not sure.  Fact is, I think the average user (with an "average" outlook on recycling) will be more upset about the implications this will continue to have on the accessibility, repairability, customization, etc. of the products.

That's a good point. My 2008 used MBP is still humming along. No Windows laptop could even come close to lasting like this. 

I think you may be comparing the cheap Wintel stuff to your MBP. There are (quite literally) hundreds of thousands of corporate standard IBM/HP/Dell laptops from 2008 still in everyday use. They are in the same price range (most slightly cheaper) as a MBP. When I was in IT, we paid $1500-$2000 per laptop with RAM and disk being the price variables.
 
That said, the cheaper Wintel laptops are generally crap, and you often get what you pay for. One of my friends said he buys cheap computers because he ends up replacing them every 2-3 years anyway, and I responded that he replaced them every 2-3 years because he buys cheap computers.

Or, to look at it another way, Wintel laptops are less expensive, and therefore it's easier to justify replacing them every 2-3 years to take advantage of advances in technology. Macbooks, on the other hand, are more expense and so buyers tend to try to use them until they are actually way past their effective lifespan because of the replacement cost.

This statement is a giant load of BS.  My old $700 HP laptop (from January of 2008) is still humming along quite nicely. 

it's always been somethung i'm rather proud  of i have this amazing phone and its enviromentally friendly and recyclabe in number of ways but i can certainly live wihtout

Could care less. Appreciate their honesty though. I'm sure there are many companies that do the bare minimum or stretch the truth just to be "certified" in such endeavors. 

The lack of repairability is by design. Instead of Apple repairing your product, they think you should just buy a new one. Some will take issue with that. Some won't. As for recyclablility, that's not very important to Apple any more. Thin designs with a Retina display is. The designs likely cost them less to build and allow them to charge the premium prices that keep the cash pile high. Apple is a business. They do what they do to make money for themselves and their share holders. SHRUG. 

I am much more concerned about the recyclability than the repairability, but they are certainly linked. In a commercial recycling center, a device must be "broken" apart to separate the major material parts (think aluminum shell separated from the circuit boards). If Apple is designing devices that are difficult/time consuming to take apart, it makes the recycling process that much less efficient. I find myself to be personally hard core on the recycling front (though not quite an activist), so I will be dissappointed in Apple if they don't step up with a proper response.
From an Apple-side business perspective, the repairability of a product has a cost formula:
Number of returns/fix * cost per return/fix = lost profit
The balance that Apple must strike is to minimuize the number of returns (wicked high quality) and/or minimize the cost to return/fix the product. Apple has been very good on the quality side, but as we all saw with the AntennaGate issue, they are not infallible. A single production mistake can have a HUGE cost, and "You're holding it wrong" doesn't cut it.

The solution is simple. If recycling wants to continue to be something that people give a couple thoughts about, it needs to evolve with the times. If technology develops around recycling, the industry will go backwards and never progress in a timely fashion. EPEAT requires that the device is COMPLETELY able to be torn down piece by piece - essentially like lego blocks. As technology refines itself, these kinds of demands simply can't occur.
Apple is doing the right thing. The hippies need to get more efficient or shut up.