Since the introduction of the iPod and iTunes
five years ago, Apple has seen a dramatic increase in college-aged
technology buyers. Apple prides itself on its sleek, innovative,
hip designs. However, when it comes to environmental impact,
Apple products are far from hip.
Apple products like the iMacs, iBooks, iPods and the newly introduced
iPhones all contain hazardous chemicals that competitors such
as Dell, Nokia, Sony and Compaq, have agreed to remove from their
products. According to Greenpeace, dangerous chemicals like toxic
flame-retardants, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) inside Apple computers
end up in the fingertips of children in developing countries
like China and India who dismantle the computers for parts. Not
only do these chemicals pose health threats to anyone exposed
to them, but the environmental impact of these toxins is extraordinary.
A basic rule of environmental protection is the producer is responsible
for the products’ disposal when it is no longer wanted.
Companies such as Dell and Hewlett Packard adhere to this Individual
Producer Responsibility. Apple does have recycling programs in
countries where it is mandatory, as in the United States. However,
many of their products end up in the e-waste yards of Asia.
In December 2006, Greenpeace ranked Apple last in a report studying
the overall environmental policy of major technology companies.
Today you can’t recycle most of these products because
you’re recycling toxic waste,” said Rick Hind, legislative
director of the Greenpeace Toxic Campaign. “We’re
looking at it from a complete life cycle approach, from where
we make these to where they end up. Twenty to 50 million tons
of e-waste a year end up in China; that [e-waste] is endangering
to migrant families trying to remove a very small percentage
of the materials for recycling.”
In July 2006 Apple earned a silver medal from the EPA’s
U.S. Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)
and uses this to support its claims to be environmentally sound.
However, the criteria the EPA uses is very different compared
to Greenpeace’s criteria.
The EPA criteria only apply to certain products and only statewide
programs, while Greenpeace evaluates the company more critically
on the whole. Scott Case, marketing director at EPEAT said in
a Jan. 12 article on IT Week’s Green Business News, “My
initial reaction was that comparing the two systems was like
comparing apples and oranges, but on closer inspection it is
more like comparing apples and cows.”
Still, Apple uses the EPEAT silver medal to dispute Greenpeace’s
campaign. Apple positions itself as the leader for innovative
and revolutionary products in all aspects except environmental
impact. Apple continues to do only as much as it needs to satisfy
environment laws, according to Barbara Kyle at the Computer Take
Back Campaign, a group instrumental in the first push for Apple
to establish a recycling program, in a Jan. 30 article from AlterNet’s
Many students do not know where their products go when they throw
them away or have knowledge of recycling programs available.
I was completely unaware of the environmental impact of Apple,” said
Glennel Warren, Hawai‘i Pacific University student and
Mac owner. “If I knew about the recycling programs, I would
use them, but if my iPod broke before I knew about recycling,
I would probably just throw it in the trash.”
So the next time your iPod breaks, or you upgrade to a new computer,
think about where your computer is going and the impact it will
have on the environment.
For more information visit www.greenmyapple.org.