EPEAT Verifies Retina MacBook Pro Eligibility for Environmental Registry

Four months ago, Apple pulled its products from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry, with sources indicating that Apple's design direction for its increasingly thin mobile products was incompatible with EPEAT's criteria for "disassemble-ability" and other factors. Just a week later, Apple responded to significant criticism of the move by placing "all eligible products" back on the registry and issuing a letter from senior vice president Bob Mansfield acknowledging that their removal was a "mistake" for the company.

With Apple's products back on the registry, some observers were surprised to note that Apple's new Retina MacBook Pro was included, given that it had been the subject of criticism for recyclability issues, with the strong glue used to affix the battery to the casing being of particular concern. It was quickly noted that manufacturers grade themselves against the EPEAT criteria, and thus some believed that EPEAT's review of the grading would ultimately result in the Retina MacBook Pro losing its status on the registry.


Last Friday, EPEAT issued a press release stating that it had performed verification studies on "ultrathin" laptops from four manufacturers, including Apple, and found that all of the tested models did indeed meet registry eligibility requirements. At the time, it was unclear which Apple models were included in the study, and we assumed that the ultrathin designation only addressed the MacBook Air, which has been deemed eligible for the past several generations.

Consequently, fresh verification of the MacBook Air was not necessarily a surprise, although EPEAT did find it necessary to both clarify the definition of "commonly available" tools for disassembly or upgrades and note that an expansion port such as Thunderbolt or USB is sufficient to contribute toward meeting the criteria of upgradeability.

iFixit's Kyle Wiens has, however, now confirmed to MacRumors that the EPEAT verification testing did indeed include the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which the group is classifying as an ultrathin notebook despite the fact that it is substantially thicker and more powerful than the MacBook Air. In an opinion piece published at Wired today, Wiens addresses the impact of the decision, calling the new clarification of the EPEAT standards "greenwashing":

Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro – the least repairable, least recyclable computer I have encountered in more than a decade of disassembling electronics – was just verified Gold, along with four other ultrabooks. This decision demonstrates that the EPEAT standard has been watered down to an alarming degree. [...]

At best, the interpretation of the EPEAT Gold standard is laughably out of touch. At worst, it means recyclers a decade from now may be faced with a mountain of electronic waste they cannot affordably recycle without custom disassembly fixtures and secret manufacturer information.

Wiens goes on to provide an overview of how development of EPEAT's standards is weighted toward computer industry companies and how this has watered down the environmental criteria for the products.

Unfortunately, getting highly specific language into a standard like EPEAT is challenging because manufacturers claim it limits future innovation. So when language does finally make it into the standard, it’s critical to rigorously enforce it.

Where language is ambiguous, decisions must consider the goals of the standard, or risk negating its purpose entirely. The updated definitions systematically weaken the 1680.1 standard.

Apple's design direction is clearly weighted toward building products that are as slim and light as possible, using custom and proprietary components to achieve its goals at the cost of upgradeability and repairability. For most consumers who never see fit to upgrade their computers, the tradeoff is an acceptable, or even desirable, one. But for those who seek to keep their computers running as long as possible before purchasing a new machine, and even for any users interested in end-of-life recyclability of their products, Apple's tactics are undoubtedly cause for concern.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
102 months ago

This is great news! Likely it will increase Apple's sales and most importantly for all of us, its profits.

Apple is the greenest company in the world, and it is great that they are getting the recognition that they so richly deserve. I hope that their stock skyrockets due to this news.


The kool-aid is strong in this one...

Glassed Silver:mac
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
102 months ago
iFixit is obviously biased as they want to be able to sell parts and services to people.

True greenwashing is when a product is supposedly repairable and recyclable but becomes quickly obsolete and is either discarded within a couple of years due to obsolescence or breaking down. The cheap laptops contribute far more to e-waste that a typical Apple product due to its longevity and durability.

@JayLenochiniMac:Where do you think all of those cheap disposable electronics end up? They end up in another country shipped by a so-called "recycler" where children play. Even the most recyclable electronics have some parts that end up as e-waste in another country putting the health of people living there at risk.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
102 months ago
the ifixit guys is really saying: "Eek! I can't sell parts and repair guide hits to this product! I'm going to go the way of the TV repair shop!"

seriously. who laments the inability to perform user repairs on flat-panel TVs, receivers, car stereos, etc... nobody. nobody does. you send it in to the manufacturer or you get another one. EOS. this despite the fact that my grandfather used to be able to repair his own television.

why would we expect notebooks to be ANY different?

as for recycling, AFAIA, Apple is happy to take it off your hands for recycling. whats the problem there?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
102 months ago
Recyclability (of electronics and other things) will forever be a moving target as technology changes. Just trying to make comparisons to the recyclability of a retina macbook pro today makes almost no sense given it will have almost zero pieces hitting the recycling network for what, the next 3 years at the earliest?

This is mostly true for all Apple products - because they don't build throw-away, cheap, products (for the most part). Maybe some institutions and the government will toss a 3 year old Retina MacBook Pro away (to be recycled) because they're wasteful spenders, but I suspect that like most people who own Apple products, you end up keeping them and using them, passing the old down to someone else, or selling them to someone who will continue to use them.

That $400 Dell/HP/Lenovo/Asus laptop is the more likely product to hit the recycling system in big numbers given they're made cheap with the expectation that they'll be replaced in a couple of years - recycled or tossed because they're not worth keeping after that.

And if recyclers are simply doing nothing to change how they recycle over the next 3+ years, then aren't they part of the problem?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
102 months ago

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to defend Apple so much as explain how the technology world works imo. EPEAT didn't even exist when laptops first came out.

"Standard" laptop parts today were not standard or easily recyclable when they were first released. In fact, they were proprietary and innovative. Other companies reversed engineered and made it better. For the past decade, the "same" design was somewhat adopted by most major manufacturers. Recycling these laptops grew easier over time.

Apple comes along and does a major change to how laptops are built. Other companies will follow. Recycling will be easier over time. It's a loop that'll likely be repeated again and again. We do have to deal with a few years of adjusting.


No, when you start gluing electronics its not easier to disassemble.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
102 months ago

Apple is the greenest company in the world, and it is great that they are getting the recognition that they so richly deserve. I hope that their stock skyrockets due to this news.


Hmm... I pretty sure Trader Joe's is a hell lot greener than Apple...
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 4: Apple TV Widget, Search Improvements, Exposure Notification API and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:14 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features and design changes included in the update. Changes get smaller and less notable as the beta testing period goes on, but there are still some noteworthy new features in the fourth beta, which we've highlighted below. - Apple TV widget - There's a new Apple TV...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Apple Explains Why You Might See 'Not Charging' When a Mac is Plugged In

Monday August 3, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
If you have a Mac and have seen a "Not Charging" warning when plugging it in to power, Apple last week released a support document that explains why. Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.Depending ...

Supposed iPhone 12 Display Unit Leaks

Thursday August 6, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
An image supposedly of an iPhone 12 display unit has been shared online by leaker "Twitter user Mr. White". Compared to images of an iPhone 11 Pro display piece, this new unit has a reoriented display connector, reaching up from the bottom of the display, rather than from the left-hand side on iPhone 11 Pro. This may be due to the logic board moving to the other side of the device. A...

Google's $349 Pixel 4a vs. Apple's $399 iPhone SE

Wednesday August 5, 2020 1:45 pm PDT by
Google this week launched its newest smartphone, the $349 Pixel 4a, a low-cost device that's designed to compete with other affordable devices like Apple's iPhone SE. We picked up one of the new Pixel 4a smartphones and thought we'd check it out to see how it measures up to the iPhone SE, given that the two devices have such similar price points. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel ...

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Samsung Launches Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Galaxy Buds to Compete With Apple's iPhones and AirPods Pro

Wednesday August 5, 2020 10:07 am PDT by
Samsung today held a virtual Galaxy Unpacked event where it unveiled its next-generation smartphones that will compete with Apple's 2020 iPhone lineup, set to come out in the fall. Samsung announced the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the two newest devices in the Note lineup, and, more notably, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung's latest foldable smartphone. The...

Alleged 'iPhone 12' Images Depict Circular Array of Magnets in Chassis

Wednesday August 5, 2020 4:39 am PDT by
New images shared on Weibo appear to show a circular array of magnets housed inside an "iPhone 12" chassis. The unverified images depict 36 individual magnets in a circular arrangement, suggesting they could be related to mounting or charging. EverythingApplePro, who shared the Weibo-originating images on Twitter, also posted an image of an alleged iPhone 12 case with a similar array of...