San Francisco Bans Apple As Macs Lose Green Sticker

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Apple loses greed cred – and government money

San Francisco’s city officials have said they will not buy Apple computers, after the company abandoned an environmental labelling scheme.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment told the city’s agencies that Apple products  should not be bought with public money. That’s because Apple has  withdrawn from the EPEAT environmental labeling scheme, which certifies products that meet green targets and can be recycled.

Other public sector organisations are likely to follow suit, as government bodies in the US are required to prefer EPEAT-labelled products. Apple has so far refused to fully explain its move.

Bad Apple?

San Francisco even fired a warning shot at Apple.  “We are disappointed that Apple chose to withdraw from EPEAT,” said Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment, according to the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal blog, adding that she hoped the decision would make Apple reconsider leaving EPEAT.

Although San Francisco public sector bodies aren’t overly keen on Macs or iPads – the city spent a total of $45,579 (£29,365) on Apple equipment in 2010 – the move could have significant ramifications. Nutter’s department only has power to advise public sector agencies, but the city’s CIO Jon Walton has said he plans to implement it, so anyone wanting to break the ban will have to apply to him for a waiver.

Apple’s response has been to direct attention to issues where it has a good environmental record, such as the removal of poisonous material from its products. But it has refused to discuss what issue made it abandon EPEAT.

Many commentators – including the teardown site iFixit – believe that Apple had to pull out of EPEAT because of the difficulty of disassembling products such as the new Apple MacBook Pros, which could make it hard to recycle their parts. The new Macbook Pro has a retina display screen and a battery which is glued in place and so cannot be easily disassembled.

“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,” Apple said in a statement sent to TechWeekEurope. “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.”

The statement appears to imply that EPEAT does not measure the removal of toxic materials, which is not true. In fact EPEAT requires conformance (PDF) with the European RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) directive which specifies the removal of substances such as cadmium, mercury, lead and PBB. Apple has gone beyond this in removing other substances including PVC from its equipment.

Although critics have said the Macbook Pro is hard to recycle, Apple claims the raw materials can be recycled, as it contains a lot of glass and aluminium. The Mac maker also offers a free recycling service to US residents. The company will replace batteries in Macbook Pro mahcines too, promising to dispose of the old batteries responsibly.

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