Sunday, July 15, 2012

How did Apple's 'can't be completely disassembled' MacBook Pros get Gold EPEAT labels?

Apple's products are back in the EPEAT green product certification registry. As we noted earlier, though, none other than Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT said that the new MacBook Pro could not be certified due to the way the product is assembled. “If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery," he said.

How then, did those MacBook Pros end up on EPEAT, with Gold labels, no less? They were part of the products that Apple put back on EPEAT on Friday, when it promised that "all eligible Apple products" would be returned to the EPEAT registry.

The Gold label indicates products are okayed for purchase by schools, companies and government agencies that require only EPEAT-certified products.

In addition to returning the original 39 products it pulled from the registry to EPEAT, Apple also added all four models of its new MacBook Pro with Retina display, giving them Gold labels. These are the same products that the first report said had never been submitted for certification.

They are also the same products that the teardown experts at iFixit said could not be completely disassembled. iFixit said that the batteries were attached to their aluminum frames with industrial strength glue that is so strong that the company couldn't remove the batteries without "leaking hazardous goo all over."

That's a no-no, per EPEAT certification standards.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition, which is a pro-recycling group, noticed the issue first.

Barbara Kyle, the ETBC's National Coordinator, wrote the following on the organization's website: "We seriously doubt that these Mac Books should qualify for EPEAT at any level, because we think they flunk two required criteria in the 'Design for End of Life' section of the standard."

Those criteria are:

Criterion External enclosures shall be easily removable by one person alone with commonly available tools.

Criterion Identification and removal of components containing hazardous materials, which specifically applies to batteries, as well as circuit boards over 10 sq. cm. in size. These components must be safely and easily removable. As ETBC notes, "Gluing the battery in does not qualify as 'easily removable.' In fact, it's exactly the kind of design that this [EPEAT] standard seeks to discourage."

So how did Apple get the Gold label on its new MacBook Pros. As with instant replay in football, it's "under review."  Manufacturers submit their products to EPEAT themselves, and give themselves the grade they want. EPEAT then reviews the rating.

The MacBook Pros have not been reviewed yet.  Note: EPEAT can require manufacturers to remove any product from the registry if it does not found to conform to the IEEE standard.

In this case, "upon further review," Apple's Gold label on the new MacBook Pros is probably not going to stand.

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