Sunday, July 08, 2012

Apple pulls products from EPEAT 'green electronics certification registry'

Apple's current design strategy, which includes squeezing every millimeter out of every product in an attempt to maximize usable space, has caused the company to opt out of the EPEAT registry. EPEAT, or the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, is managed by the Green Electronics Council and calls itself "the definitive global registry for greener electronics."

Apple will no longer attempt to certify any of its future products. In addition, late last month the company asked EPEAT to pull the previously certified 39 Apple desktop computers, monitors and laptops off its list of green products. These products included past versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

As part of the EPEAT certification, products need to be easily recyclable, and this is where Apple's new design philosophy parts ways with EPEAT. Recyclers need to be able to easily disassemble products - with common tools, no less - in order to separate toxic components, such as batteries, from the rest of the material.

As an example, iFixit (a site we've discussed here many times), which tears down products both to examine their internals and to provide instructions to end users on repairing their own electronics, said that the new MacBook Pro with its retina display was virtually impossible to completely disassemble.

iFixit said that the battery was glued to the case, and the glass display was glued to its back. While the product was not submitted for EPEAT certification, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT said that it would not have not been certified if it had been. “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.

Lack of EPEAT certification could mean that Apple products would be ineligible for purchase by some entities. For example, the U.S. government requires that 95 percent of its electronics be EPEAT certified. Many large companies such as HSBC, Ford and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to buy from EPEAT-certified firms.

In addition, many of the largest universities in the U.S. prefer to buy EPEAT-certified products. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, which was the last year the survey was conducted, more than 2/3 (222) of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT-certified computers.

EPEAT said that of those schools, about 70 required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases.

Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, said the obvious: “They [Apple] are not trying to purposely make it hard to open, they are just trying to pack as much as they can into a small space – it’s a design decision.”

Among Apple's big bugaboos has been battery life in mobile products. To increase battery capacity, the company has gone to great lengths, including eliminating user-replaceable batteries so that they can maximize the space within a device that is used for a battery.

Battery life is so important to Apple that one can assume that if they could create a battery that could be poured around the other components to seal them in and utilize every nook and cranny - they would. Of course, that wouldn't be EPEAT-certifiable, either.

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