In July Apple abruptly pulled all of its devices from EPEAT tests without explanation. It has been suggested that Apple pulled their products from EPEAT once it became clear that the MacBook Pro Retina Display would fail to meet EPEAT standards. Shortly thereafter Apple rejoined EPEAT and the Retina Display MacBook Pro won the Gold award. In the meantime, it became clear that EPEAT greatly altered its guidelines to accommodate Apple’s newest device.
Apple and other manufacturers of ultrathin computers obviously benefit from the decline of EPEAT standards. How this affects the environment is less clear. In this matter, opinion will be polarized. Greenpeace fiercely condemned EPEAT for relaxing its standards to please a corporation. Since the batteries are either hard or impossible to remove, Greenpeace worried about less recycling and an increase in electronic waste.
The following sections explain EPEAT’s adjusted interpretation of key categories:
Devices in the future can get the green light from EPEAT just for having fast and accessible connections that expand the computer’s memory. A USB port is all that is needed now to satisfy the “upgradeable” device requirement. Previously access to the hard drive to expand memory was required to meet this standard.
Ordinary Common Tools to Open
In the future, if the necessary tools are available in the open market for individuals and businesses to purchase with no particular access restrictions such as licensing agreements with manufacturers, it is required to buy them. Whether the necessary tools will really be disseminated or not is insignificant.
Key Componets Should Be Easily Identifiable & Removable
This is very important for easy recycling. Individual components such as the front battery should be easily detectable and removable in order facilitate recycling. Now, for ultra-thin laptops this criterion will now be more or less ignored, according to Greenpeace, since the test conditions in the laboratory don’t match real life situations. In this test, five different EPEAT Ultra Thins were taken apart in under 20 minutes.
What Does This Mean for the Environment?
You may be wondering if an EPEAT stamp of approval really bares significance given such blatant softening of standards. Demand for ultra thin, ultra light devices is ever increasing and now the EPEAT has relaxed their requirements, manufacturers no longer have to get creative to find the most environmentally friendly solution.
Apple is the driving force behind these adjustments which is certainly a huge disappointment for anyone who bought EPEAT certified Apple products with pride, believing that their device was better for the environment. Many consumers will of course not care and never really considered EPEAT certification in their purchasing decisions before anyway.
Other manufacturers beyond Apple including Samsung, Lenovo and Toshiba will obviously benefit from the decline of EPEAT standards. Now they too can display their environmentally friendly certification. In a way Apple has shot themselves in the foot. If it’s so easy to get an EPEAT recommendation, why wouldn’t every company go for it? Apple pressured EPEAT into a new line of interpretation instead of innovating their way out of the problem. In the short term they’ve achieved their goal, but in the long run, is this what’s good for our planet?