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Apple Exits "Green Hardware" Certification Program 405

Posted by timothy
from the shiny-star-sticker dept.
westlake writes "CNET reports that Apple is turning its back on the EPA supported EPEAT hardware certification program. One of the problems EPEAT sees are barriers to recycling. Batteries and screens glued into place — that sort of thing. There is a price for Apple in this: CIO Journal notes that the U.S. government requires that 95 percent of its electronics bear the EPEAT seal of approval; large companies such as Ford and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to buy from EPEAT-certified firms; and many of the largest universities in the U.S. prefer to buy EPEAT-friendly gear."
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Apple Exits "Green Hardware" Certification Program

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  • No Surprise There (Score:5, Insightful)

    by getto man d (619850) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @05:45PM (#40578257)
    Profit > The Environment
    • And those in charge at those companies who "shouldn't" buy non compliant hardware, will simply bend the rules, so they can get their iShiny fix.
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:01PM (#40578695)

        Bend the rules? What for? The 5% brass gets their iShiny, and for the rest of the company we now have a really good reason why they can't have an iShiny.

        It's so win-win.

        • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tonywong (96839) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:53PM (#40578959) Homepage
          This will be interesting to see what Apple's official response is. You can bet every other hardware vendor is watching this move, as well as the EPEAT people. If the public doesn't change their buying in response to Apple's move, then all the other vendors may decide that EPEAT certification isn't necessary for them to sell products. And EPEAT may have to change (relax/sell out/update) their rules in order to get Apple to return to the program if they feel that Apple will be the company that makes them irrelevant.
          • Re:No Surprise There (Score:4, Interesting)

            by tftp (111690) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @09:33PM (#40579337) Homepage

            If the public doesn't change their buying in response to Apple's move, then all the other vendors may decide that EPEAT certification isn't necessary for them to sell products.

            Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.

            (link [wikipedia.org])

          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:13PM (#40579557) Homepage Journal
            Ok...so, does anybody really look for some kind of 'green' label before purchasing a computer?

            I mean...is there anyone out there that uses 'green' as a deciding factor between models they are considering??

            • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Miseph (979059) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:47PM (#40579697) Journal

              I have a friend who founded a computer sales and service company with precisely that goal. It's still fairly small and operates in a local market, but he started with very little working capital beyond his vehicle and personal know-how in a market already well-saturated by established competitors (including two Geek Squad dispatches).

              So yes, there are at least some people out there who make environmental considerations (including power use and heat generation) with regard to their computer equipment.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Keen Anthony (762006)

              Not so much "green" in the classic sense, but I do consider two localized environmental issues: heat dissipation and noise. I have chosen more expensive with less horsepower specifically because my requirements include low heat dissipation and low noise, and I can buy any retail PC on the market I want. My Quad Core iMac is dissipates a comfortable amount of heat and is very quiet vs comparable mobile and all-in-one desktop systems, so it's worth owning. Plus, it doesn't have distracting features like flash

            • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Informative)

              by DaveGod (703167) on Sunday July 08, 2012 @05:13AM (#40580927)

              Ok...so, does anybody really look for some kind of 'green' label before purchasing a computer?

              I mean...is there anyone out there that uses 'green' as a deciding factor between models they are considering??

              Yes.

              Not me personally, but as stated in TFA for many large organisations it's an absolute requirement. Without the cert the hardware simply isn't eligible for consideration.

          • by hackula (2596247)
            They will do exactly what Big-Coffee does in the face of fair trade certified coffee. When an old roommate of mine went through training (aka brain washing) at Starbucks they told him "we looked into fair trade certification and found that it was too lax. Instead we went with X certification which has much higher standards". Spin!
    • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NonUniqueNickname (1459477) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @05:59PM (#40578335)

      Profit > The Environment

      For Apple, sure. But for the iPhone-MacBook-iPad-owning-environmentalists this presents a dilemma (which I think will be hilarious to watch).

      • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Informative)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:26PM (#40578475) Homepage Journal

        But for the iPhone-MacBook-iPad-owning-environmentalists this presents a dilemma (which I think will be hilarious to watch).

        That's been hilarious for quite some time now.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          Like all the Occupy protesters that have ipads and iphones...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by busyqth (2566075)

        For the iPhone-MacBook-iPad-owning-environmentalists this presents a dilemma (which I think will be hilarious to watch).

        Why? Where's the dilemma? The only issue is that the Apple products can't be easily disassembled. It's not that Apple is using environmentally damaging materials in the manufacture of their products.
        The environmentalist wackos can buy Apple gear and then, when it's useful life is over, give it to Apple for free environmentally responsible disposal / recycling.

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          The only issue is that the Apple products can't be easily disassembled.

          Unrepairability.

          • by cynyr (703126)

            Unrepairability by end users

            Not that I'm defending apple, but they are repairable (by apple and for some definitions) and the Al chassis is recyclable.

            That said as much as i would like the high res screen on the new 15" macbook, the soldered on ram and the petalobe screws are an instant deal killer.

          • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Interesting)

            by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:29PM (#40578819) Homepage

            Unrepairability.

            Which may or not be a word...

            But anyway, how many non-Apple products are 'repaired'? Rather depends on your definition of repair - replacing a battery could be considered repair and certainly Apple falls short compared to some other manufacturers. However, so far, replacing an iPhone battery has not exactly been a technical challenge for all but the most mechanically declined. It remains to be seen if the newer MacBooks with the glued in battery will really challenge anyone. I suspect it wont.

            While I think Apple can be taken to task for gluing a battery in rather than putting some clips on it, it's a small issue overall. I don't think it all counts towards whether or not a device is recyclable since it isn't hard to pry the battery or display out if you aren't looking to retain function.

            And if you use a slightly more reasonable definition of 'repair' - replace a bad screen or other component - who actually does that these days? The person interested in such things is definitely an edge case (or nut case). The average consumer and the average store is going to toss a defective device and pick up a new shiny.

            • by mspohr (589790)

              Thanks to Apple's brilliant design of the iPhone which has a glass front and back, the most common repair of the iPhone is to replace broken glass front or back. Parts and instructions are readily available and while it is not for the klutzy or timid, it can be done.
              Who would have thought that just dropping a phone would break the glass case?... certainly not Apple... or perhaps they planned it that way.

              • by Brannon (221550) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @11:36PM (#40579933)

                and thus why Apple is going out of business. If only they made rickety plastic phones...

                Have you ever dropped an iPhone? I have, a couple times. From 4 feet high onto asphalt--not a scratch.

                • by sFurbo (1361249)
                  The edge of glass screens is by far the most fragile part, and a crack here will crack the entire screen. The solution is known to anyone who designs or tests phones: Have the chassis extend just a tiny bit over the edge of the glass, so that the edge never hits the surface when the phone is dropped. The iPhone is not designed this way, and as a result, if you drop it wrong, the glass will crack. It has nothing to do with the surface it hits, wood can crack it. It is not a matter of how many scratches is ge
                • by arikol (728226)

                  I have also dropped an iPhone 4. From around 4 feet onto asphalt. Landed flat on its face and got a point loading shock. The screen was quite effectively destroyed.

                  Changing the screen was an involved operation, but not all that complex, as such. Just needed some time and effort. The screen wasn't too expensive (ordered from China) at around U$100 delivered, and getting the glued battery out only required being careful. No biggie. I then proceeded to fix more phones for others.

                  It's not an operation that ever

            • by Darinbob (1142669)

              It's enough of a barrier that many people would rather buy a new product than repair the old one.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by bky1701 (979071)
        They'll give Apple a pass, because Apple, you know, is not just some evil-multinational megacorp trying to rip people off and exploit poor foreign workers in order to expand profit margins. No, Apple is different.

        It is an exercise for the reader to figure out how exactly they are different.
      • Re:No Surprise There (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sqrt(2) (786011) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:56PM (#40578971) Journal

        I don't know about that. My MacBook Pro has lasted three years without any problems and will probably last three more. Since my computing needs are fairly simple I don't see much reason to upgrade just for better specs. I do plan on replacing the spinning drive with an SSD and maybe putting a large HDD where the optical drive currently is. So by buying a MacBook Pro instead of a "cheaper" laptop I probably saved money (and the environment) since it will have to be replaced less often. Other brands of laptops last a couple years at most. It's not unheard of for a Mac notebook to last 5+ years and still enjoy daily use by its owner. Making products that last as long as possible does more for the environment than any specific "green" manufacturing process.

        This is still an unfortunate move and I am sad that all those iPads are going to end up in landfills because the battery only holds a charge for a set number of cycles and can't be easily replaced. By the time the battery finally stops holding a charge it'll be "too old" to repair, so people will just get a new tablet. It's not just Apple that does this. Almost all the tablets on the market today are sealed boxes.

    • Energy == $$ (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:03PM (#40578363)

      Total Environmental cost = manufacturing impact + use impact - recylcing recovery

      typically
        recylcing recovery << manufacturing impact

      all else being equal you'd like to increase recycling recovery but when there is a trade-off in that that increases the manufacturing or use cost it doesn't balance out.

      The hangup is the "easy disassembly" requirement whereas electronics is going to more and more unibody assembly. EPEAT probably is going to have to give on this or be replaced if that is the trend. Since most of the environmental impact happens in manufacture and there isn't a big gain for the environment in recycling It's not necessarily environmentally unfriendly to manufacture a device that is more economical to make and to use. Generally the cheaper something is the less total energy and resources were required to make it. The exception to that is when there is a large exogenous cost not paid by the maker (e.g. say some manufacturer dumping mercury into a river but not having to pay for the consequences). Apple has not said it is planning to shortchange that part of it's environmental policies.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        The word "cost" is used with two different meanings; a cost that is expressed in US$ and a cost that is environmental damage.
        You seem to be using these two conflicting meanings as if they were the equal.

        • by khallow (566160)
          They aren't, but only because we haven't come to a consensus for environmental damage in terms of monetary damage.
      • Re:Energy == $$ (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Spykk (823586) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:55PM (#40578965)

        EPEAT probably is going to have to give on this or be replaced if that is the trend.

        Right, because when environmental standards become inconvenient for big companies to adhere to then the standards need to change. We certainly can't expect companies to lessen their impact on the environment in order to meet these standards, can we?
        What exactly is the point of having these standards if we just change them every time some big company decides it will be profitable?

    • Re:No Surprise There (Score:5, Interesting)

      by busyqth (2566075) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:21PM (#40578451)

      Profit > The Environment

      Apple's move is driven by a design / certification dichotomy, not a profit / environment dichotomy.

      Whether a given device is EPEAT certified says absolutely nothing about whether it is actually more or less likely to be recycled or whether it is more or less a burden on the environment. All is says is that the device can be relatively easily disassembled for recycling by unskilled labor without special equipment.

      If Apple is willing to take all old devices for free environmentally responsible disposal / recycling (and I believe they are), then the EPEAT certification is of no great value to the environment in the case of Apple's devices.

  • by mwfischer (1919758) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @05:57PM (#40578317) Journal

    No xserves, Lion Server is a piece of shit, ARD is a $90 add-on, took 3 years for a corporate iOS configuration tool, 5 for a competent one, Final Cut X rivals Windows Movie Composer, Mac Pros are $4,000 for almost 3 year old hardware, and with 10.8 tethering every machine to the App Store there are no "unregistered" machines...

    They're pro-sumer devices anymore.

    • my company still won't approve any iPhones or iPads for corporate use because of the weak security features (so the IT guys say), Apple really doesn't 't give a crap about businesses and hence Blackberry stays in business....

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:52PM (#40578631)

        my company still won't approve any iPhones or iPads for corporate use because of the weak security features (so the IT guys say), Apple really doesn't 't give a crap about businesses and hence Blackberry stays in business....

        This sounds like bullshit since Apple has full-disk encryption + per app data encryption (with various flexibility options) + s/mime for email. Even iMessage and APNs uses TLS. So what else does an IT Department need?

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        It all depends on what security features are called "weak". On one hand, the device has full disk encryption, supports Exchange policies and profiles and Apple even has a tool to add additional protection.

        One can argue this a lot. However, given the choice between SSL/TLS or depending on BES/BIS, I'll take the former any day of the week.

      • by kqs (1038910) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @08:58PM (#40579227)

        my company still won't approve any iPhones or iPads for corporate use because of the weak security features (so the IT guys say), Apple really doesn't 't give a crap about businesses and hence Blackberry stays in business....

        Since this was true three years ago, the good news is that your IT folks may only be about three years out of date with technology, thus placing them in the top 20% of corporate IT folks. Hey, I like to be optimistic!

  • It was obvious from the teardowns that the MPB with Retina Display was designed in a way that made enviromentally-friendly disposal impossible. So that's how Apple were planning on solving the problem - redefining what it means to be environmentally-friendly!

  • EPEAT = Ugly? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mal-2 (675116) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:02PM (#40578353) Homepage Journal

    It seems that some of the EPEAT requirements lead to bulkier designs and quite possibly extra parts needed to hold it all together. It seems inevitable that this would violate the design principles Apple has been using for the last decade-plus, at least with portable products. If there's a way to shave a millimeter or a gram here and there, Apple will find a way to do it. It's one way they achieve product differentiation from the competition. Unfortunately, doing so means gluing things together and wedging things up tight in ways that don't want to be disassembled.

    I'm a bit surprised Apple isn't outright saying "EPEAT compliance means making our products ugly, and you don't want THAT, do you?"

    • Re:EPEAT = Ugly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:09PM (#40578383)

      Glue is not a replacement for proper engineering

      • Re:EPEAT = Ugly? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:16PM (#40578417)

        as someone who has disassembled many of apple's glued-together-displays, i can say without a doubt that there is room inside for fasteners or magnets (like those used in the iMacs). Glue is just a way to keep the cost of repair high enough that replacement SEEMS like a better option for the user when the time comes.

        • Re:EPEAT = Ugly? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rabtech (223758) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @09:05PM (#40579251) Homepage

          You are over thinking it and/or biased. Apple uses glue because it is faster to manufacture and it frees you from certain structural constraints. I don't like that from a repair standpoint but I understand why they do it.

          The MacBook Retina has soldered memory because that allows the case to be smaller and the structure doesn't need accomadation for an access panel. It also simplifies the trace routing since you don't need to deal with a memory slot. I would also bet that 90% of their users never upgrade the memory in their laptops, so why compromise just for the 10%? I don't like this choice but it isn't some arbitrary scheme to scam people.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Billly Gates (198444)

            Not to scam people?

            So I pay $1700 for a MacbookPro and in 2 years when the battery needs to be charged after only an hour I have to throw the whole damn thing away!

            F*ck you Apple.

            If that is not a scam I do not know what is. Batteries die and so do SSDs. My phone is a year old and I can tell the battery is dying and needs to be replaced. Apple is making money hoping I would be retarded enough to pay them $3400 in a 4 year time frame for profit reasons. Or I can buy a $900 laptop and replace the battery in 2

      • by tomhath (637240)
        The depends on your definition of engineering. Ease of manufacturing, low cost, maybe even improved reliability are all design factors. Making the unit repairable and recyclable are also factors, but not necessarily important ones. Also, planned obsolescence works best when the item can't be repaired or upgraded; customers are forced to buy the next generation product.
      • by Fjandr (66656)

        Yes and no. In some cases, glue is most certainly a part of proper engineering.

        Anyone who says otherwise knows nothing about the history of fine woodworking, among other things.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:03PM (#40578361)
    I expect Apple is going to put pressure on EPEAT to relax their standards for laptops. But this won't hurt Apple much anyway since phones and tablets aren't rated anyway [wsj.com]:

    an increasing part of its product mix is made up of iPhones and iPads, which are not currently certifiable under EPEAT.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:04PM (#40578367) Journal
    Seriously, this is an interesting opportunity for Google/Motorola to not only bring manufacturing back to the USA/west, but to get sales just by being environmental about it.
  • On the face of it, EPEAT directly conflicts with the Apple business plan. This is going to be interesting.

  • Good move, Apple! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sk999 (846068) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:34PM (#40578521)

    Where I work we buy a lot of Mac laptops, but all must be EPEAT-compliant (or a variance must be granted, which isn't likely for that many machines.) I sense a lot of disgruntlement coming.

    Good move, Apple - you may have just saved Steve Ballmer's job.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @06:49PM (#40578603)

    EPEAT is only valuable in assessing products that don't have dedicated recycling programs in place. I.e. It's useful for assessing the general case, but fails to take into account any special considerations pertaining to particular products.

    For instance, Apple has had a recycling program available for years that is available as a free service to any of their customers. Given that Apple is promising to recycle your devices (including non-Apple ones) for you regardless of how difficult it is to do so, the ease of recycling them should be a non-factor to anyone but Apple, rendering the difficulty of recycling a meaningless measurement for outside consideration. And the fact that they've provided a decent incentive to use their service rather than go to a general purpose recycler has provided a good reason for it to be widely used. Most of the Apple folks I know are aware of the recycling program, even if they haven't had a reason to use it yet.

    Specifically, to use it, you just tell them what you have, and they'll send you pre-paid packaging for your device. In the case of computers (including non-Apple ones) or iOS devices, they'll give you a gift card for the fair market value of your device, and they give you 10% off a new iPod if you bring your old one into a retail location for recycling. They also take non-Apple mobile phones free of charge and with pre-paid shipping, though they don't offer any gift cards or discounts.

    To me, at least in this one narrow area, that all renders EPEAT's assessment obsolete, since it's failed to keep up with the times. It needs some way to account for such programs.

    • by makomk (752139) on Saturday July 07, 2012 @07:26PM (#40578805) Journal

      For instance, Apple has had a recycling program available for years that is available as a free service to any of their customers. Given that Apple is promising to recycle your devices (including non-Apple ones) for you regardless of how difficult it is to do so, the ease of recycling them should be a non-factor to anyone but Apple, rendering the difficulty of recycling a meaningless measurement for outside consideration.

      Apparently Apple dump the problem of recycling their devices onto a third-party contractor, which gives them a lot of plausible deniability. I'd be interested to see an investigation into what actually happens to Apple hardware once it's handed over for recycling - even if Apple has said that the hardware that's handed over is recycled, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's actually economically feasible for its recycling subcontractors to do so.

      • Apparently Apple dump the problem of recycling their devices onto a third-party contractor, which gives them a lot of plausible deniability. I'd be interested to see an investigation into what actually happens to Apple hardware once it's handed over for recycling - even if Apple has said that the hardware that's handed over is recycled, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's actually economically feasible for its recycling subcontractors to do so.

        Using a third-party contractor doesn't give Apple any plausible deniablity. They have full responsibility. But in the end, what you are saying is that Apple is evil because you didn't visit the place where the recycling happened.

        However, this discussion here is about EPEAT, and their requirement that products must be capable of being taken apart with bare hands or with commonly available tools. That is a requirement because all the crap that is shipped to third world countries, where someone with no rega

    • by sk999 (846068)

      EPEAT covers more than recycling - it also covers materials incorporated into the product.

      Apple's recycling program only makes sense if there is no other recycling program available. Otherwise, it becomes a liability. Imagine having a recyling bin that accepts all types of cans ... oh wait, except Miller cans, for these you have to order a box and send them back separately.

    • by westlake (615356)

      To me, at least in this one narrow area, that all renders EPEAT's assessment obsolete, since it's failed to keep up with the times. It needs some way to account for such programs.

      I want to make one thing clear:

      Recycling is not the only issue.

      EPEAT evaluates how much a given product impacts the environment, taking into account its recyclability, upgradeability, manufacturing processes, and energy consumption. Apple had previously touted EPEAT certification as a high point, with the company's most recent iMacs having received the organization's highest rating, EPEAT Gold.

      Apple pulls its products from EPEAT 'green' certification registry [theverge.com]

      Since I submitted this story, CNET has embedded a link to its video review of the Mac Book Retina. It is a beautiful machine. But it cannot be serviced or upgraded in any meaningful way.

  • If you're just disassembling used electronics to recycle the parts, don't you just use a heat gun? That doesn't seem like it would require any special skills.

  • The issue here has nothing to do with environmentalism or profitability. It is about building better, more rugged equipment. If the hardware certification program is outdated in its specifications then it makes sense to leave and move on, which is what Apple is doing.

    I predict that the program will update itself to account for this and Apple will rejoin, after the changes are there.

    • I predict that the program will update itself to account for this and Apple will rejoin, after the changes are there.

      I counter-predict that Apple will be forced into an embarrassing climb-down and lose a lot of sales before they realize they need to do that.

  • The hipsters aren't gonna like this...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 07, 2012 @10:02PM (#40579485)

    Posting as AC because I'm an Apple service tech in my day job.

    There's been internal jokes about the majority of the Retina MacBook Pro being a disposable computer. It's a very nice system and the display is gorgeous, but the way Apple constructed these machines is a bit perturbing. We can't even remove the battery pack- what iFixit reported is 100% true. The batteries are literally fused to the top of the unibody chassis, there's no magical Apple tool for prying the cells off the aluminum.

    When you pay $199 for a replacement battery, the service procedure for actually swapping out the cells is stupendously involved. Everything must be stripped from the chassis- the logic board, port boards, and display all have to be removed. What you're getting for $199 actually includes a new keyboard, trackpad, battery, and upper chassis- because it's all one unserviceable part (much in the same way that the display and iSight is considered a single P/N).

    A lot of people are wondering why they've done this- when a few screws and half a millimetre on the thickness would have allowed us to remove and swap the batteries in under 5 minutes. Heck, they could have built the batteries onto the bottom panel instead, that way battery swaps don't require removing the logic board. But they didn't.

    The only logical reason that anyone can come to is that this is simply a progression of technology. We are rapidly moving towards integrated devices that are completely unserviceable, essentially disposable, and as cram packed with technology as physically possible. Nobody has any doubt that if Apple could build everything onto a flexible circuit board adhered to the back of an LCD panel, then essentially immerse the entire thing in varying forms of resin to create a completely solid and totally sealed device- they would. Because that's where we're headed.

    The iPad 2 and iPad 3 have already taken the first steps towards this. They are sealed, we have no service procedures for doing anything to the devices. If it breaks or is defective, the customer gets a new one.

    Apple would just love to have all their hardware like this, because then us Apple techs become irrelevant and redundant. Any old monkey can plug a device into an automated suite of software testing tools and wait for the big green "PASSED" or red "FAIL" text, then take the appropriate direction to replace that hardware. All you need then is a system to handle defective hardware and make it go away- who cares about repairing it, the device is busted and it can't even be repaired anyways.

    -AC

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