Apple Products Decertified as Environmentally Sound
One of the themes of recent discussion on Apple's new products was recycling:
arstechnica is reporting that Apple has now decertified their products as environmentally friendly, as defined by EPEAT:
"[Apple] said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements," Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, told the Journal. "They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore."
This is because the new MBPr can not be easily disassembled for recycling. It would seem Apple may be heading this way with other products (next iMac?).
My guess is that Apple believes that most people will chose the new form for certain conveniences. For example, imagine the business traveler who feels the smaller lighter MBPr will help keep weight under baggage overweight charges or the general convenience of having to carry less weight.
One can only hope recycling technology improves to the point where Apple's new designs can be broken down when the time comes.
'One can only hope recycling technology improves to the point where Apple's new designs can be broken down when the time comes'
..Er, so lets get this right, the world has to find a solution to apple's recycling problems? this takes the whole fanboy thing to a new pathological level.
we all remember apple as 'the little company that could' inevitably they've become 'the big company that could'nt give a shit'. just the same as every other faceless corporation. No doubt apple will choose to rubbish the EPEAT, their methodology and their relevance rather than deal with their own pollution.
[al ellis] ".Er, so lets get this right, the world has to find a solution to apple's recycling problems? this takes the whole fanboy thing to a new pathological level."
Very short sited thinking. Yes actually the world does have to radically improve its ability to recycle. This is especially so when it comes to certain plastics and certain goods being manufactured. The problem regarding Apple products is not based on chemical content but simply that there's no easy way to dissemble. As miniaturization continues across the board recycling will have to advance in its disassembly to rescue and recycle the content.
"The problem regarding Apple products is not based on chemical content but simply that there's no easy way to dissemble. As miniaturization continues across the board recycling will have to advance in its disassembly to rescue and recycle the content."
As one of the world's most innovative electronics companies, and a company making record profits, one might expect that Apple can rightfully claim to be an industry leader in many areas. Yet their record, in employee treatment, environmental issues, both manufacturing and recovery, and insourcing to badly needed American tech manufacturing is generally poor. Regrettably they seem to have adopted a posture that is pretty much parallel to late 19th century industrial titans, who only addressed worker and social problems by reacting to government or outside pressure.
If it ever really existed, Apple's commitment to being socially responsible has evaporated as they have morphed into a consumer electronic and media producer. As a leader, and a example of corporate excellence, what Apple does reverberates widely to other companies, and Apple's behavior sets a standard which is unacceptably low. Given their stock price and profit margin, it's tragic that this should be so.
The technological challenges you mention are real, but this is not a question of technological complexity, it's a question of will, and corporate culture.
As a corporation, Apple is remarkably insular in relation to it's customers and it's community, remarkably devoted to legal conflict with competitors, and apparently unconcerned with the social implications of it's corporate policies.
One may argue that these are legitimate preoccupations of a modern profit driven corporation. I'm not sure I could reasonably dispute this proposition. Yet at the same time, as a citizen of a nation facing real challenges in all these areas I would submit that Apple's responses are utterly inadequate and unacceptable. If social responsibility is beyond the reasonable expectations for Apple, then the rational person is justified in looking elsewhere.
[Patrick Murphy] "If social responsibility is beyond the reasonable expectations for Apple, then the rational person is justified in looking elsewhere."
I totally agree. If Apple's policy of "we'll take it back" isn't enough, looking around is definitely de rigueur.
Where do you look? Despite Apple's strange design choices, it does not mean the components aren't recyclable, or that cheap parts are used for assembly. Apple seems to handle recycling pretty well, even sending you a shipping label. Who offers that or better? I am generally curious as I have no idea.
Again, this is straight from the horses mouth, but do you think Apple lies about all of this?: http://www.apple.com/environment/
I wonder how much say Apple has with their recycling partner Sims?
I agree that Apple is far from perfect, they are a giant corporation and they operate as such with profits being a large driver of their policy. But when it comes to electronics, where do you turn for a "more responsibly" manufactured product?
"Again, this is straight from the horses mouth, but do you think Apple lies about all of this?: http://www.apple.com/environment/"
Well, I wouldn't put it past them. But I'll admit that Apple's web presentation is very slick and reassuring.
However check this NYT article from Sept. 2011,
I saw a presentation in the US by one of the named sources in that article, Mr. May Jun of the Chinese Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, several months prior to this article. It was mostly about general environmental conditions in China and as you might expect it was pretty grim. What surprised me was that at the end of the presentation he devoted about 10 minutes to Apple in particular. He said that while US corporations tended to be fairly responsible in dealing with suppliers, Apple was uniquely uncooperative and unresponsive to Chinese groups who were trying to address environmental issues.
The Institute published a special report on Apple which is available here: http://www.ipe.org.cn/En/about/report.aspx?s_text=Apple It's much more detailed and on point than the Times article.
So just in this one area, it's fairly clear that trusting Apple is a fairly dicey proposition.
[Patrick Murphy] "It was mostly about general environmental conditions in China and as you might expect it was pretty grim."
Yes, I've been to a couple of Chinese manufacturing towns. Grim is an understatement and it is a much bigger than Apple, although they seem to be taking a brunt of the finger pointing lately probably due to their financial successes and public popularity. The folks at Apple certainly wield the influence and power to change it. They have at least paid lip service to it, I don't know what becomes of it.
I still wonder, since Foxconn produces a lot of electronics (like intel motherboards), and even smaller manufacturing companies produce many of the specialized parts of electronics, what computer company is any better or not as "guilty"? I am genuinely curious. I'd love to be able to know right where to go a "responsible" computer, but since a computer is such an outsourced amalgamation of Asian manufactured parts, is it really all of Apple's fault? When you go to look for a a different brand of computer, and you can literally get a laptop for $400, are the parts in that computer anymore environmentally responsible? How do we know? Where the working conditions better than Foxconn? How do we know?
We've had these conversation before. It is a very complicated problem, and extends to one of the overall problems of a global supply chain, and that is exploitation of local laws and governments.
[Patrick Murphy] "The Institute published a special report on Apple which is available here: http://www.ipe.org.cn/En/about/report.aspx?s_text=Apple It's much more detailed and on point than the Times article.
So just in this one area, it's fairly clear that trusting Apple is a fairly dicey proposition."
Thanks, I will check these out.
If you were to look around, what other company would you trust?
[Jeremy Garchow] "... since a computer is such an outsourced amalgamation of Asian manufactured parts, is it really all of Apple's fault?"
This is a typical business strategy to avoid responsibility for social and environmental matters - the underlying principle is that if you can distance oneself through corporate structure, subcontracting, foreign production, then you can distance yourself from responsibility. It generally works to certain degree.
The question to think about is precisely that: who is responsible? You seem to be suggestion Apple bears no responsibility when it invests so heavily in this production and extracts such large profits from same.
[Jeremy Garchow] "... what computer company is any better or not as "guilty"?"
Maybe they are all the same: Apple - just like all the others. Something to bear in mind the next time you hear claims about "innovation".
Your posts seem to be alluding to a feeling that there is nothing you can do but accept the world as it is presented to you. Do you really feel that way?
[Franz Bieberkopf] "Your posts seem to be alluding to a feeling that there is nothing you can do but accept the world as it is presented to you. Do you really feel that way?"
Of course not. Although I'm a dipshit, I'm a very practical dipshit.
I'm asking real questions above, Mr Bieberkopf. I haven't heard anything.
Say, I quit Apple. Their policies and decisions have pushed me over the edge and I'm fed up.
So now that I have theoretically decided not to give Apple any more money, can you honestly tell me what product I can buy that will be better for the life of everyone involved in the supply chain, and allow me to still be a video editor that uses a computer? Or am I just trading evils?
Everytime I ask this question, it seems it turns in to rhetoric. I am asking sincerely.
There's no question this move that Apple is pulling is very odd. It is the one thing that doesn't reconcile with me. Ending fcs3, I get it; pushing for better working conditions after bad press, as much as it sucks, I get it; being secretive; I get it; giving deeper employee discounts and wage increases for retail location employees only when asked, I get it.
Gluing a battery and screen to a laptop case to save a bit of girth if it really truly does make it impossible to recycle after being a fairly responsible company? I'm not quite getting it. So, as that starts to not make sense, the next logical question is what does make sense?
[Jeremy Garchow] "So, as that starts to not make sense, the next logical question is what does make sense?"
That question is not a bad start - it admits that doing nothing is probably not the wisest course of action. Unfortunately there isn't a simple, easy answer right now (which in itself is enough to dissuade some people from doing anything).
NYT article (2009) outlining the issue::
"Accepting the waste is just a start. Electronic waste is often shipped to developing countries for recycling, a practice that environmentalists tried, with limited success, to outlaw in 1995 through the so-called BAN Amendment to the Basel Convention, an international treaty on hazardous waste disposal. ... The TakeBack coalition is pushing for greater openness in recycling programs because “in an arena where there’s so much cheating going on, transparency helps improve some of that,” said Ms. Kyle.
2010 Statement from Greenpeace:
“This is not an issue that one company can solve, no matter how ambitious their takeback initiative,” says Harrell. “But this can’t be dealt with on an industry-wide basis either. It needs to be on a government basis, so we’re looking for companies that are trying to move the politics on national takeback policies.”
So the pieces seem to be full manufacturer responsibility and transparency in the recycling chain - these will require government mandates and third-party audits.
That in itself might suggest ways to you that you can contribute to those solutions.
And I hope you've written Apple about your concerns.
But one of the most immediate things that you seem to overlook is the EPEAT list being discussed. These are the companies (including computer makers) that participate:
Have you really not looked at editing with equipment from those companies?
[Jeremy Garchow] "Everytime I ask this question, it seems it turns in to rhetoric. I am asking sincerely."
You might be asking the wrong people. Or you might have to forge your own. Either way I'm sure there are others here who would be interested in the answers you come up with. The solutions need to be long term, large scale, and also short term and personal.
[Franz Bieberkopf] "Have you really not looked at editing with equipment from those companies?"
I think you are misunderstanding me, and I'm sure it's my fault.
I am happy to continue this conversation offline. It goes well beyond the scope of FCPX, and is leaving the scope of this forum.
I'm not quite sure what's better, making really cheap computers out of really cheap plastic and having an EPEAT certification for disassembly because if you drop it it disassembles itself, or glueing a battery to highly recyclable piece of metal, and sending in to Apple's recycle partners where they have the secret technique to undue the glue. I just don't know, and I'm not sure that information is out there.
I am all for making things better for everyone and taking responsibility, but I am one person. Buying an HP doesn't make me a better person or make it any "better" for the environment. Buying a computer that is made entirely in Chicago and from locally sourced parts would be totally awesome, but it's impossible. EPEAT is one small aspect of it, and since Apple's parts are still highly recyclable despite the glue, I'm not sure what's better. I would like them to answer. I have "understood" their business decisions and practices even if it hurts me in the long run. Such is life. If it is true that if I send a new Apple product to a recycler and they throw it in a landfill due to a wad of glue, then certainly, it is very confusing.
editstation at gmail dot com
From the article:
"Companies like Dell have 171 products listed on EPEAT, but yet if you look on Dell’s Web site, none of their computers are even Energy Star Compliant."
Are there various levels of Energy Star compliance? I honestly don't know, but that didn't sound right so a quick Google search brought me these:
Something seems amiss, or I'm completely misunderstanding what the Energy Star sticker means.
Just saw this on twitter: http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2012/07/10/san-francisco-officials-plan-to-block-a...
Wonder if this is an isolated response or if Apple's move will eventually cost them a significant amount of sales.
[Michael Hancock] "Are there various levels of Energy Star compliance? I honestly don't know, but that didn't sound right so a quick Google search brought me these: "
There seems to be different categories. I don't really know.
Also Energy Star and EPEAT are different.
That Dell comment seems a bit erroneous.
I haven't found a similar statement from Apple anywhere else, yet.
Yes, they stand to lose business., it was their decision.
The total statement, as reported by the Loop is thus:
“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2 ... We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”
... none of which speaks to why they don't want to be certified. (One could just as easily imagine the above paragraph in a press release announcing EPEAT certification.)
It also leaves aside the question of 3rd party audit and transparency, which are fundamental aspects of the issue.
Some good detailed assessments on the Greenpeace site:
"If you were to look around, what other company would you trust?"
Well, I've looked into it somewhat, and so far I've not found evidence that any other manufacturer is particularly admirable in this area. Responsible manufacturing is more expensive, and at this time, there doesn't seem to be any competitive advantage to environmentally responsible behavior.
Which might seem to let Apple, and it's consumers off the hook. Except that Apple claims to be responsible when there's ample evidence this is mostly malarkey. Additionally, Apple's future trajectory in terms of system design and corporate commitment raises even more questions.
[Patrick Murphy] "One may argue that these are legitimate preoccupations of a modern profit driven corporation"
Well, these are the concerns of a modern, profit-driven society that is predicated on consumerism and the general paradigm of planned and perceived obsolescence. We're the suckers who go along with it, who buy into it. You can say, oh, well, its Moore's Law at work, and everything's getting, better, faster, higher, stronger... .... really?
Like the stampede to own the latest and greatest whatever, otherwise "you suck". Take FCX. (Please.. ba dump-bump-tssh). Does the same thing, but ignites a textbook firestorm of fashionista debate.
"The Story of Stuff", from 2005. I love that it starts with an IPod. May as well begin with the obvious.
Tone is a tad shrill, perhaps, but I dare you to disagree with the premise.
The piece states that only 1% of all goods survive more than six months, not years, before being trashed.... have to wonder if that has changed in the intervening 7 years. Whether the glass volume is 50% of anything won't matter, because the real number now is "the 1%". If there's only a drop of water in the glass, it is actually mostly empty, not partially full.
"I always pass on free advice -- its never of any use to me" Oscar Wilde.
[Joseph Owens] "If there's only a drop of water in the glass, it is actually mostly empty, not partially full."
I guess it's time for all of us to quit and go home early. Luckily, I get to walk home avoiding the use of fossil fuels.
"When life gives you lemons, sometimes you say 'f*ck the lemons" and bail."
-Chuck the Surfing Instructor
The Retina doesn't fit the guidelines. Admittedly, I think it's very weird. The iPhone and iPad don't either, but the rest aren't decertified. The products that were certified did not suddenly lose their status.
In fact: "Apple pulls products from green electronics registry"
Also, they actually do take back their products. http://www.apple.com/environment/#recycling
They might even give you money for it. http://www.apple.com/recycling/
While I agree, the retina mbp is impracticality designed for tinkering and 'easy recycling', Apple seems to be a responsible company as far as a multi-billion multinational.
[Jeremy Garchow] "The products that were certified did not suddenly lose their status."
From the article:
But Apple is removing all of its products from EPEAT's registry, even older desktops that had once been certified.
If the products are not registered and checked as conforming to established EPEAT standards, then they are not "certified" - you can choose other words if you like, "de-listed" means the same thing practically. It does have an impact on their "status" (contrary to your claim).
If an institution only buys EPEAT certified equipment, they will not be able to buy Apple.
[Jeremy Garchow] "Apple seems to be a responsible company as far as a multi-billion multinational."
Maybe. Maybe not. They certainly claim to be. What resources to do you have to check those claims? Or do you just take their word for it?
Also I thought it amusing that from your links they base their figures on a 7 year life-cycle for products (at the suggestion of Dell).
What else do I have to go on but their word? I can call them and send them my old computers, even the devices that aren't EPEAT certified. Should I do that, or simply throw them in the trash?
Your subject seems like they were hit with a decertified sticker, when they voluntarily removed the products themselves.
The ones that were never submitted were never certified, so they can't be decertified.
You can get fired or retire. Big difference.
I'm not saying what they are doing is "right". They still follow the rohs and other environmental rules, and they take back their own products or have deals with recycling companies. Beyond that, I have no knowledge. Just as I drop off products at a local recycler here who claims they are responsible, do I need to install a tracker to find out? At some point I believe them or not. Other PC companies have similar methods in place, do you believe them? Some don't have any in place at all. What's better, making an effort or doing nothing?
If Apple loses business from companies that won't buy from them because they aren't certified, it's their loss. Huge companies do weird things. I wish auto manufacturers would take back their components. When a company takes back their own waste, it forces them to use higher quality materials, at least in theory as they logistically have to deal with the results of their product life cycle.
I don't know what you are inferring about the 7 year cycle, but Apple will accept products (even products that aren't their own) that are of any vintage.
Some more detail at iFixit:
Many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase computers from sources that are EPEAT certified, said Sarah O’Brien director of outreach for EPEAT. And the U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics it purchases be EPEAT certified. In 2010, ... 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Around 70 of the schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases
Don't forget ifixit has a vested stake in consumer repairable products. It's their business!
I'm not saying their points are completely without merit, but they're not unbiased either.
The Retina MPB is absolutely a less user-serviceable device. Whether that's problematic for a majority of consumers is another thing entirely...
There's also this wrinkle to it that I don't think was mentioned yet:
"The design may well be comprised of “highly recyclable aluminum and glass” — but my friends in the electronics recycling industry tell me they have no way of recycling aluminum that has glass glued to it like Apple did with both this machine and the recent iPad."
Looks like someone changed their mind:
Apple acknowledges 'mistake,' places eligible products back on EPEAT
(Edit: didn't see your post, David; same info)