UK Environmental Committee Says Apple Contributing to 'Throwaway Culture' of 'Short-Lived Products'

Technology companies like Apple are contributing to e-waste by making their products difficult to repair, and charging expensive repair fees, according to a lengthy report published today by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

iphone trade in store
"We were told that Apple glues and solders parts together on their laptops, which makes repairing them very difficult," the Committee wrote in a summary of the report. "They also charge very high fees to repair their products. This trend, which goes against a long history of engineering in the UK, needs to stop."

In a statement provided to The Guardian, Apple said it was "surprised" and "disappointed" with the Environmental Audit Committee's report, with the company touting its "industry-leading commitments" to protect the environment:

We were surprised and disappointed with the Environmental Audit Committee's report, which does not reflect any of Apple's efforts to conserve resources and protect the planet we all share. There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before, and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone lineup all use recycled material across key components. We will continue to work with parliament and the government to document Apple's industry-leading commitments and to support our common effort to leave a clean economy and a healthy planet for the next generation.

Apple elaborated on many of its environmental efforts in a letter that it submitted to the Committee in September, including increased use of recycled materials in its products and running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy.

The Committee said the current business model for electronics is "reliant on continuous consumption, a throwaway culture and short-lived products," and called on technology companies to "take the lead in creating sustainable and environmentally-friendly business models that do not rely on exploitation of nature."

The Committee also said it was "disappointed" with Apple's "limited level of engagement" with the inquiry, including its failure to appear before British lawmakers.

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Top Rated Comments

BGPL Avatar
47 months ago
I'm not an Apple fanboy by any means, but the biggest reason I still purchase Apple products is because of longevity. Obviously this committee has never owned a Dell or HP product. Talk about throwing away a computer after three years of use. I have a 2009 24" iMac and a 2010 13" MacBook Pro that still work perfectly every day.
Score: 90 Votes (Like | Disagree)
baryon Avatar
47 months ago
Yes, many of the things Apple does is just "how it has become" with every electronics manufacturer. But Apple takes many specific steps to prevent repairs for absolutely no good reason. For example, using glue to secure the battery to the top case instead of screws or pull-tab adhesive is just wrong. The battery is going to go bad at some point before the rest of the device fails, and you can't replace it unless you bring it to Apple so they can more or less give you a new computer and make you pay for it too.

Oh, and "trade in and recycle" is great but you know what's better? Being able to replace the broken ribbon cable without having to buy a whole new screen and then being able to continue to use the computer for another 3 years. Or being able to swap out the battery yourself. It's REDUCE reuse recycle. Reduce the need to have to buy a new on first, by making it repairable for when it inevitably fails. Remember those horrible butterfly keyboards you paid so much for? Yeah you couldn't even replace a SINGLE KEY on them. And the entire keyboard was riveted in. With hundreds of rivets. I don't think that's okay. I wonder what Apple would have to say about that. Just recycle it! Oh yeah, I bought a computer instead of a new car – but hey, they F key broke! I'll just recycle the whole computer! Environment yay! Money yay!

PS: Oh and one year warranty, Apple. When every other company gives you two years minimum, but usually 3 years if you register on their website. That means all other companies will guarantee that their products will last 3 times longer than Apple's, and if they don't, they'll take responsibility and fix it for free. What will Apple do? Suggest you recycle it.
Score: 86 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Stella Avatar
47 months ago
One area in which this report is 100%, devices should be easier to repair than they are now. Apple is in fact making their products harder to repair.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Stella Avatar
47 months ago

So, what? We should stop improving and making new tech because it encourages throwing the old tech away?

Sounds like a great plan for progress.
That's not what the report is saying :rolleyes:
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Aluminum213 Avatar
47 months ago
How dare anyone criticize Apple!!!
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wiesenlooser Avatar
47 months ago
Their product last for ages. My 2014 MBP still runs completely fine (besides the depleted battery) and iPhones probably have the longest OS update support in the industry.

What is true that their products are hard to repair, part of it is because of more compact design, tightening tolerances and waterproof-ness. But to my knowledge if you go to an Apple Store and they have to exchange parts / computers, the exchanged product gets recycles.

They could clearly build their products to be more repairable or modular, but then product quality would suffer. It's very clear they are prioritising product quality and do what they can do to mitigate the negative effects of bad repairability.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)