Apple Defends EPEAT Withdrawl

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Last week, Apple took the extraordinary move of withdrawing from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – a ranking specification for grading the recyclability of electronic gadgets and their impact on the environment.  In doing so, Cupertino removed all 39 product lines from the specification that the company helped craft.  Why did Apple make such an about face?  It could very well be because current versions of the iPhone, iPad and the new Retina-based MacBook Pro are extremely difficult to disassemble, much less recycle.  Cupertino claims Apple products exceed environmental standards.  But can leaving EPEAT only show a drastic and negative shift in it’s environmental awareness?

“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,” she said. “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.” – Kristin Huguet, Apple spokesperson

So let me get this straight … it isn’t about being able to take their product apart and recycle them, Apple is abandoning EPEAT because it exceeds it?  I’m sorry, but as my older brother says when he hears something that doesn’t add up – “that dog don’t hunt.”

Now, to be fair to Apple, Cupertino says that iPhones and iPads are under the EPEAT spec anyway, so the fact that retina based iPads are not rated by EPEAT’s standards.  But even if you set aside the two products that account for over half of Apple’s yearly sales, that still leaves computer products like the new Retina MacBook Pro – which was given a repairability score of 1 out of 10 by iFixit when it came out.  That’s a definite fail.

And sure, you can point to the majority of Apple’s environmental policies pertaining to manufacturing, but once the products are out in the wild, e-waste becomes a very real problem and the ability to recycle obsolete and unrepairable technology becomes very crucial to lessen it’s environmental impact.

And even if you take into account that EPEAT’s specification is, as EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee put it “a little long in the tooth and too narrow,” wouldn’t Apple want to continue to be a leader in helping to craft a spec for the better?  Why drop out?  Especially since without EPEAT certification many government agencies cannot purchase electronics.

And Apple stated in it’s decision to abandon the EPEAT spec that their design definition had “diverged,” from EPEAT requirements.  Not exceeded, mind you, but divergedWebsters defines “diverge,” as to “to change one’s course or direction” and “to go or move in different directions from a central point.”

That doesn’t seem to indicate a positive development.  Even if you stick around symbolically, Apple would’ve had the clout to push the EPEAT standard, bring it more in line with current the current state of the technological art.  But they’re jumping ship, and based on iFixit’s ratings, that can only mean a dramatic shift.

Welcome to the Cook Era.

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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