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EPEAT Defends Verification of Ultrathin Notebooks for Environmental Registry

Earlier this week, we noted that Apple's Retina MacBook Pro and newest MacBook Air models had been among a number of ultrathin notebooks whose eligibility for inclusion on the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry had been verified. The approval came with some clarifications of the EPEAT standards that were criticized by some, including iFixit's Kyle Wiens, as watering down the requirements for inclusion.

EPEAT has now posted a defense of its actions, noting that its review committee was simply following the guidelines as they are written. The group acknowledges some of the concerns, but notes that those issues should be raised in the forthcoming update to the standards and not as criticism of the application of the standards as they are currently written.
Regarding upgrade capability, the criteria specifically state that products may be upgraded or extended “by a high performance serial bus (IEEE Std 1394™ [B4]) or Universal Serial Bus (USB)”. Regardless of opinions about whether or not that is appropriate or acceptable language, the hard fact is that EPEAT has no authority to ‘flunk’ products if they meet the explicit terms of the standard.

Regarding disassembly: The criteria under discussion are located in the section of the standard that addresses Design for End of Life – that is, design for effective recycling. The criteria investigated are not in any way aimed at refurbishment or repair. Again, people may think that there should be more in the standard about disassembly for repair and refurbishment – and we welcome their views – but these criteria do not apply to that topic.
The group goes on to note that EPEAT standards are developed through an open process that involves stakeholders from a number of sides, although Wiens had previously noted that the voting group for the last standards update was heavily weighted toward computer industry companies. EPEAT also notes that at the time of the registry's implementation, no products qualified for the Gold standard, indicating that the registry's overall purpose in defining reachable goals has been a success.
The EPEAT system was structured to encourage continual improvement by providing progressive ratings and by regularly updating the environmental performance criteria products must meet. It took a year for any products to meet the Gold rating requirements after the registry launched, because it was extremely challenging to do so. Over time, the EPEAT PC/Display criteria have become more familiar and companies have designed them into their products and supply chain requirements. That’s a good thing. In fact the whole point of the EPEAT system is to drive change… Our goal is to create a new bottom line for environmental innovation that affects the whole global industry for the better.
EPEAT is moving forward with its next update to its PC/Display standards, hoping draw upon recently-updated standards for imaging equipment and televisions in certain aspects. Consequently, it seems that the time for those interested in tightening the criteria for such aspects as upgradeability and recyclability and to add criteria for repairability is approaching.

Top Rated Comments

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87 months ago

What exactly does EPEAT do?

Is this more of a marketing thing to make us consumers feel better about buying laptops, computers, phone etc that will eventually end up on another countries landfills?

Have you been to their site to find out?

While there's a PR aspect to it all (what rating system doesn't?) - there are companies and/or government entities which require certain standards (IE - they must be epeat "gold" in order to be purchased)

So being on or off the list can affect one's business - it's not just warm fuzzies


Who the hell cares...

LOL - I love posts like this. You clicked in, read and then posted. You must care. Even a little. Well played.
Rating: 18 Votes
87 months ago
iFixit is just pissed that they won't make as much money anymore. With repairability gone downhill, they won't be able to sell you tools and parts. That said, usually when repairability goes down, reliability does go up.

Remember when we discovered that you can't even replace the battery in the Retina MacBook Pro?

We were hopeful that the green standards folks would do something about it. Now, they've caved in to Apple.

There was a flurry this summer when Apple announced that they would be leaving EPEAT soon after releasing the unfixable Retina MacBook Pro—then, two weeks later, apologized and resubmitted all their products to the registry. Since July, the EPEAT product verification committee has been busy making their decision. Now, the results are in.

The Retina MacBook Pro—the least repairable, least recyclable computer I have encountered in more than a decade of disassembling electronics—was just verified EPEAT "Gold." This decision demonstrates that the EPEAT standard has been watered down to an alarming degree: proprietary, Apple-invented Pentalobe screwdrivers are now considered "commonly available tools" and a USB thumb drive is an "upgrade."

If the glued-together Retina MacBook Pro meets EPEAT, what computer would not? If other manufacturers follow in Apple's footsteps, it will lead humanity down a perilous path. Environmental standards should promote recyclability and upgradeability! So let's flood EPEAT with stories of our successful computer upgrades. Rather than complaining and moaning, tell EPEAT about all the awesome upgrades you've done to your computers. How much longer have you been able to keep your hardware running?

Share how important upgradeability is to you. Email EPEAT CEO Bob Frisbee or tweet at EPEAT.

I wrote more about the situation in an article for Wired.


Kyle Wiens
iFixit cofounder

Rating: 13 Votes
87 months ago
Why all the hate on iFixIt? They provide a valuable service, IMO. Once my stuff is out of warranty, it is much much cheaper to fix stuff myself using their tools and guides than pay an Apple authorized repair center.

Most normal people can't afford a brand new $2000 laptop when the warranty is expired and something broke or they want to upgrade RAM or HDD.
Rating: 11 Votes
87 months ago

Well yes - as now just illustrated. Since EPEAT is willing to move goalposts due to pressure from their new BFF (and other computer manufacturers) - the value is diminished.

the goalposts havent "moved", son, since theyre the exact sam written spec as yesterday. only thing has changed is youre now aware of what they actually say.

that is, that theyre concerned w/ proper disassembly & recycling at End of Life; not third-party repair yahoos.

Rating: 10 Votes
87 months ago
No one cares. We just want shiny toys.
Rating: 9 Votes
87 months ago
What exactly does EPEAT do?

Is this more of a marketing thing to make us consumers feel better about buying laptops, computers, phone etc that will eventually end up on another countries landfills?
Rating: 8 Votes
87 months ago
Why are some people here hating on iFixit? You know its not a bad thing to be able to fix your own gadgets. But I guess when something negative is is said about Apple, then they automatically become the enemy.
Rating: 7 Votes
87 months ago
Who the hell cares...
Rating: 6 Votes
87 months ago

iFixit is just pissed that they won't make as much money anymore.

Yep and EPEAT is basically saying that such ire is not part of the standard and never will be. So long as things can be repaired, even if just by the manufacturer, they don't care that some yahoos can't sell stuff for folks to F up their stuff on their own. Especially when that means a trashed computer possibly going into a landfill cause Apple won't replace/repair something an unauthorized person touched.

Truth is that that I think that the withdrawal etc was all on purpose. Apple created a laptop that has a strong lifespan and they can disassemble and are likely already sorting out the details of a program to do just this well before it should be necessary. Possibly also so they can recover materials that can be used again rather than going into a massive shredder etc. That should be enough since the point of EPEAT was supposed to be to reduce unnecessary trash. EPEAT's initial ruling on the Retina MBP was the opposite of this so to cause discussion and hopefully force them to look at the rules, Apple basically says to hell with the whole thing and pulls their qualifying computers as well. And once the press was all in a tizzy, recants and apologizes. Hell it could have been Mansfield's idea. And it got Apple more press in their favor than them issuing a press release about how they think the standard needs to change ever would. And now they are getting what they wanted


there are companies and/or government entities which require certain standards (IE - they must be epeat "gold" in order to be purchased)

Because they are too lazy to do the homework to judge for themselves but they don't want to seem anti environment for PR reasons.

basically the tech version of driving a gas guzzling humvee but buying offsets that actually don't do jack
Rating: 5 Votes
87 months ago
The only drama here is iFixit losing potential sales. They're the only ones making a big hubub about it all. It was said in the last thread and probably needs to be said again -- EOL is all that matters for EPEAT. It can easily be recycled when done into core components. That's all that matters.

Repairability and modification are different stories. Truth be told, it's very repairable, just by Apple. Just because third parties are having a harder time repairing or modifying it doesn't mean it's somehow bad.
Rating: 5 Votes

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