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Apple Removes Green Electronics Certification From Products (wsj.com)
146 points by rkudeshi on July 7, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

Gruber ranted about the iFixit's blog article on the difficulty of recycling the new Retina MacBook Pro on at least a couple podcasts - the implication being that the iFixit guy didn't really know what he was talking about with regards to the recycling element.

Let's see if he comes forth with a mea culpa, now that Apple is as much as admitting that their newer models just aren't easily recyclable - otherwise why else would they be pulling the EPEAT certification from their products?

I think Gruber's response was pretty compelling: Apple will recycle any PC/Mac/Phone/iPod at their store or by mail free of charge. http://www.apple.com/recycling/

Following your link, I see that Apple contracts with "Sims Recycling Solutions" to recycle their computers.

Here's what Sims has to say about the new Apple Systems:

""Sealed units [like the iPad] make it difficult to remove the batteries," Steve Skurnac, president of SIMS Recycling Solutions, said in a statement. "From a recycler's point of view, the hazardous components [like batteries] need to be easily separated or removed.""

If Apple is contracting with third parties to recycle systems, and those third parties don't know how to recycle the glass with an adhesive on it - then there is an issue. [Edit - In their interview, iFixit called out in particular the difficulty separating the battery from the Retina MacBook Pro case - the same concern of the President of Apple's recycling company. http://ifixit.org/2884/apple-ditches-green-standard-cuts-off...]

I just think Gruber (a podcast that I listen to, so it's clear where my biases lay) should have given a bit more credibility to Kyle Wiens. The iFixit guys know a lot about the material elements of hardware, and he did take the time to contact people in the recycling industry before making his comments.

I find this sealed argument a bit strange.

In most cities there are shops that will replace cracked screens, do basic damage repair etc on iPads, iPods, iPhones etc. They seem to manage just fine with the units being glued.

I am guessing the issue is purely a cost one.

When replacing a part the glue poses no issue. But recycling a part is different. The glue that is bonded to the glass etc can be difficult to remove, as is claimed above. Full removal is necessary to ensure the recycled product is not contaminated.

Moving beyond that, this raises the cost of recycling the glass, which in turn raises the cost of buying the recycled glass. This makes it a less attractive deal to manufacturers than new glass, thus giving companies less incentive to process the glass with glue.

Well yeah, there's the problem that glass is trivially easy to manufacture from sand, and the amount of labor and energy use to remove and process these screens is greater than the savings, especially since most glass these days that is sent for recycling is thrown into giant mountains of unwanted glass that is never used by anyone. Also, if you have to use a bunch of highly toxic solvents that are dangerous to work with so people can by hand remove the glue before even getting to that point, one may reasonably ask what exactly about this process is green.

most glass these days that is sent for recycling is thrown into giant mountains of unwanted glass that is never used by anyone.

That isn't generally true, mostly because it is valuable as long as you have glass production nearby. The UK does have a mountain of green glass as it drinks loads of wine but doesn't produce much. But this is apparently quite unusual, at least according to the Economist. - http://www.economist.com/node/9249262

All things considered, who really cares about the glass. Glass is not toxic. Throw it in a landfill. The batteries are what you want to get, that's where the nasty stuff is. And what kind of glue are we talking about? Something so strong that you can't pry it apart? Seems kind of unlikely, but I don't know. I'd imagine something more like a semi-flexible rubber cement.

I believe the batteries are the big problem. With respect to the glue, ifixit reports:

Electronics recyclers need to take out hazardous components such as batteries before sending computers through their shredders, because batteries can catch fire when punctured.

When we originally tore down the Retina MacBook Pro, we could not separate the battery from the upper case. The next day, after a lot of elbow grease, we were finally able to get them apart—but in the process punctured the battery, leaking hazardous goo all over.

They are fairly practiced at taking things apart, including delicate and glued-together equipment, so I'd conclude that it is a fairly strong and difficult to work with glue.

see: http://ifixit.org/2884/apple-ditches-green-standard-cuts-off...

Also see their teardown for a description of their initial, failed attempt to detach the batteries:


iFixit evaluates for repairability, not for recyclability.

For example, on http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook-Pro-with-Retina-Displ... they state " To complicate matters further, the TrackPad cable lies underneath the battery. Attempting to pry the battery off the upper case could easily sever the fragile cable, which would be bad." That is of no concern when recycling the device.

So, is there a problem recycling these new devices? I would guess so, but I do not rule out that there is a simple process to separate these parts, e.g. by heating them to a certain temperature, putting them in a microwave just long enough, or by taking apart the battery before removing it from the glass. A dedicated recycler could use some specialist procedure for recycling these things. I do doubt that that would be economically feasible, though. The amount of glass involved is just too small.

Also, chances are that that will lead to lower degree of recycling, just as white glass can be recycled better than green or brown glass, and as car windshields, being layered with some plastic, can be recycled, but likely not into new car windshields.

> by heating them to a certain temperature, putting them in a microwave just long enough

Are you kidding? You want to do that to a Lithium ion battery?

Why not, as long as that 'certain temperature' is well below the temperature at which the battery spontaneously ignites? Also, for recycling, one could deplete the battery before trying to separate its container from the other parts.

I still think these things will get recycled into low-quality stuff such as concrete filler, but as I said, I do not rule out that there is a relatively easy way to separate the parts that iFixit does not know about.

That would work fine in a lab, but is way too expensive for recycling.

Those ovens with accurate temperature control and very expensive, and pretty small. And manually hooking up each battery to a discharging station is far too complicated to do in bulk.

You don't need to recycle anything at all as "concrete filler" sand works just fine.

Yes, sand works fine, but there are at least two reasons to use other stuff:

- to give the concrete a different look

- to get rid of junk aka recycle stuff that does not have other uses.

Some links: http://www.concreteideas.com/recycled-glass-in-concrete, http://www.jnphillips.com/greenshield.asp

" Glass is not toxic"

What about the coatings on the glass?

You've just described the basic difficulties and market pressures faced by all companies recycling just about anything.

Not all use glue, and It is possible that apple is changing its glue and/or using more.

Most likely both. Maybe they have new glue and glue remover and want to make sure all repairs go through them, because only they have the secret glue remover.

But that would be far fetched maybe? /speculations

"The glue that is bonded to the glass etc can be difficult to remove, as is claimed above. Full removal is necessary to ensure the recycled product is not contamination."

Don't most recyclers just toss everything in a big shredder, run the bits and pieces through mechanical separators, and smelt each stream of fragments. It's not like bottle recyclers get all bent out of shape if there is still glue and labels on the bottles.

EDIT: inflammatory /= 10;

Which doesn't mean the Mac is actually made of recyclable material, it just means that Apple does the dirty work for you; they throw out the non-recyclables and may (or may not) recycle the recyclables.

While this may allow Apple's customers to retain a larger amount of "warm and fuzzies", it probably doesn't pass muster for a person who is seriously concerned about environmentalism.

The certification is about easy recyclability not about recyclability in general. While it could be taken that they are saying their products are not recyclable anymore one could also say that they are just accepting that they aren't recyclable with standard tools anymore. Given the new retina laptops this definitely makes sense and its nice to see them volunteering to remove themselves before being removed by the organisation.

It sounds like products are certified on a product-by-product basis, and this decision was more about not wanting consumers to wonder/worry about why one Mac laptop was certified and another wasn’t.

No, it's about trying to kill the standard. Many institutions can only buy epeat certified hardware. If the standard doesn't say what Apple wants it to say, then Apple will stop them from buying any of their products, even the ones that comply. Should be an interesting standoff.

That means nothing. That just means that Apple will dispose of your stuff for you and give you that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you "did the right thing". But is there any guarantee that your item doesn't just end up in a landfill?

Is there a PC maker that gives you such a guarantee?

Yes: those makers whose PCs are EPEAT-certified. EPEAT certification is designed to make the products economic to recycle.

Huh, how is that a guarantee? They probably still just throw it into a landfill.

It's not a guarantee :) But if you think for 5 minutes about how you would go about decreasing the volume and the toxicity of the electronics that gets landfilled every year, you might come to realize (like I did) that what EPEAT is doing is a more effective way to reach your hypothetical goal than a corporation's undertaking to take old products off the hands of consumers if the consumers bring them to their retail stores. (It's more effective because there're so many ways that the corporation can directly or indirectly put the old products on a boat to China or India.)

"Apple meets the requirements of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. All e-waste collected by Apple-controlled voluntary and regulatory programs worldwide is processed in the region in which it was collected. Our recyclers must comply with all health and safety laws, and we do not allow the use of prison labour. Apple recyclers do not dispose of hazardous electronic waste in solid-waste landfills or incinerators. For an example of the stringent processing and operational controls Apple places on its directly contracted recyclers, read an excerpt from our recycler requirements agreement [PDF]."


"Apple will recycle any PC/Mac/Phone/iPod at their store or by mail free of charge."

Apple will accept and transfer any such unit. That doesn't mean the unit actually gets recycled when it goes out Apple's back door. The recycling contractor may recycle 100% of the unit, or some lesser percentage.

Looks like they fought for years against even doing that:


'Why' could be as simple as 'the new CEO has different priorities than the old.'


If you gave Jobs the choice between making a better product or having a government issued Green certification - you think he'd pick the certification...

If anything this is incredibly Jobs-ian as it's obvious that Cook isn't cow-towing to big business and Government organizations that now won't be able to buy their products.

From a strategic standpoint I see more recycling incentives coming for users over the next few months. They're having trouble keeping the "Apple Refurbished" shelves stocked - I can definitely see their high end refurbished line becoming their version of a "budget" line for low-end consumers.

From a strategic standpoint I see more recycling incentives coming for users over the next few months. They're having trouble keeping the "Apple Refurbished" shelves stocked

Bingo. Apple has no incentive to help anyone else disassemble and repurpose their products, while methinks their refurb unit can use all the components they can recover.

otherwise why else would they be pulling the EPEAT certification from their products?

Apple probably did not see certification as important to its future growth. Apple was probably also dealing with pressure for EPEAT - and decided the hassle just wasn't worth it. Dropping governing bodies is never an easy decision, but Apple has so much influence already, that it's difficult to say whether trends will follow Apple, or stay with EPEAT. Considering Apple actually provides the value, my bet is on the former.

I had a look at EPEAT. It is possible that Apple just doesn't want them as a design partner.

There are thousands of design tradeoffs to be made in a laptop. Is EPEAT willing to update and republish their rules every time a manufacturer finds a better solution that doesn't comply with the rules? The guidelines seem to track well with 2000 era PCs and cell phones.

From what I can see (EPEAT does not make their guidelines available without payment, there may have been something useful in their Resources section, but I'm finding broken links to third party file sharing sites) they have a set of categories that are required and some that are optional. By how many optionals you meet you get a bronze, silver, or gold rating. Apple marketing can't tolerate anything but a gold.

The guidelines I see don't have flexibility to them. For instance, if you can reduce your glass consumption by 50% by gluing it to something that can acceptably be chucked into the glass recycler, that may be a better environmental decision, but it may also be forbidden by EPEAT.

EPEAT says things need to be taken apart with "common tools". Does the pentalobular screw head count? I doubt it. Even if Apple sends pentalobular screwdrivers with each pallet of computers to the recycler it doesn't count for EPEAT.


" It is possible that..", "I see don't"... "may be a better ... decision"..."The guidelines I see"... "I doubt it"

Your claims are a long stream of unsupported speculation.

Rather than speculate, we can consult the article. The article mentions that the guidelines were developed with Apple's input. The article sources a couple people who noted that the recent MacBook Pro was mostly unrecycleable.

And the "something" which the screen was glued to is the battery and given that batteries are major source of toxic waste, it is hard to imagine how a smaller battery or screen might be a desirable trade-off for the battery's toxic ingredients entering the environment.

Edit: re-reading the article, the situation is that the screen is glued to the case and the battery is glued to the case. Effectively the same result: '“If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery,” Frisbee said.'

I'm not inclined to consider the article as especially authoritative. It is mostly echoes from blog posts collected into a story.

…guidelines were developed with Apple's input… In what year? Half a decade ago? A decade? You can not simultaneously innovate better manufacturing and make things the same old way.

People need to stop being in a glue tizzy. I'm sure that in a recycling context the glue can be undone with either heat or a chisel. And remember that Apple has a plan in place to replace those batteries.

I suspect the story we are not seeing is that EPEAT is not willing to update the standard fast enough to adapt to modern manufacturing. And they probably shouldn't. Apple will be secretive until release, and EPEAT should take some time to think about things. Those just aren't going to work together.

"I'm sure that in a recycling context the glue can be undone with either heat or a chisel."

Every decision impacting recycling has to be viewed with labor costs factored in.

Virtually every recycling victory we've seen in the corporate sector in the past decade or two is due to efforts to make the recycling process cheap enough that the loss is negligible (and in the best cases, recycling is even profitable).

Nobody is saying that gluing things together makes them completely unrecyclable, but that glue could easily be the difference between a recycling company actually recycling parts vs throwing them in the landfill due to increased costs blowing the economics of recycling out of whack (if cost of recycling is significantly larger than cost of throwing item in the landfill, the item is almost certainly going in the landfill).

This is exactly the situation EPEAT was set up (as mentioned, with Apple's input) to watchdog over, and Apple is clearly now putting spectacular hardware design above any green/recycling factors. Whether or not that is a terrible thing is a personal choice to make, but you seem kind of fanboyish in your efforts to pretend like Apple's decision is somehow EPEAT's fault.

Accept that you prefer computers that are now actively non-recyclable and move on.

That's 40 cents worth of scrap aluminum. I'm not seeing a plausible argument for labor rates making it landfill.

It's far too dangerous to put either heat or a chisel anywhere near a Lithium ion battery.

So, yes, it's completely unrecyclable.

Depending on the chemistry lithium ion batteries are safe to up to 400°F or more. Surely the manufacturing engineers pick a thermo adhesive with a melting point between the maximum operating temperature and the maximum safe storage temperature.

Think about the iPad 2 screen glue. Glass glued in place, but a hair dryer is more than enough heat to release the glue.

"Depending on the chemistry" is not a valid answer when recycling something - they don't have time to lookup the specs of each battery.

http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/lithium_ion_safet... says maximum temperature of 265°F, which is very very close to the temperature needed to melt the glue (250°F, for low temperature glues, and 380F for high temperature glue - which is very close to even your 400° number.)

I'm sure that in a recycling context the glue can be undone with either heat or a chisel.

So, your proposed recycling solution is to attack a glued on lithium battery with heat and/or a chisel. Can we film you doing this for charity or something?

I suspect the story we are not seeing is that EPEAT is not willing to update the standard fast enough to adapt to modern manufacturing.

Ummm... I suspect the story that we are seeing is that you have no idea whatsoever about modern manufacturing and are just making shit up to try and defend a position of personal dogma.

The spirit of Tim O'Reilly, Steve Jobs, and other great innovators of that generation, whose worldviews were shaped by counterculture values and the human rights movement of the 1960's are truly vanishing from silicon valley. Welcome to the new spirit of online innovation, a culture driven by pure commercialism and dreams of higher profits for all.

I've come to expect nothing less from the Hacker News community than what's reflected by the general tone of the comments in this post.

1. Unless it's an issue related to net neutrality or 'geek rights', let's bend over backward to give corporate America the benefit of the doubt; after all, as aspiring entrepreneurs, can't you sympathize with behavior intended to maximize net revenue?

2. Apple is being victimized by outside parties that fail to comprehend the importance of slaughtering all ideals and standards at the temple of Apple design whims (if a screw requires an extra 2mm of space, there's absolutely no environmental trade-off worthy of discussion or debate).

3. Let's not jump too quickly to question authority, especially when it involves Apple or any tech flavor of the month because you should assume their motives are pure.

>gluing it to something that can acceptably be chucked into the glass recycler //

Can you (or anyone) provide a citation on the viability of chucking electronics fused to displays in to a glass recycler?

Just for clarification purposes: EPEAT certification requires certain standards that make the machines easy to disassemble and recycle using common tools.

I'd like to see more info about this. If true, it's very disappointing, but I could also see it being a case where government regulation has failed to keep up with a changing industry. It may be just as possible to recycle an Apple product today as last year, but I won't believe Apple, I won't believe Gruber, and I won't believe the first guy at the WSJ who is "grabbing a scoop".

As is typical in the media, I'm left with very few trustworthy sources.

As the story itself says, Apple offers recycling programs. I don't particularly care about the ease with which I could disassemble my own laptop, since I'm never going to do that, and as long as Apple is willing to recycle the machine for me I'm happy.

According to what NatGeo and a few others dug up (literally) Apple hardly recycles anything. The glue alone makes recycling an impossible task. They ship most of it off in containers to be sold in India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, where the lower castes and children strip out the precious metals by burning or cooking (highly toxic, but easiest way to remove the glue) or scraping the components by hand. The plastic and glass remnants are dumped in available spaces.

And before anyone says the glue is a new thing, try to take apart a PSU from a Powerbook.

Do you have a link? If you're right I'm really bummed.

edit: I can't really find details on apple's site and I'm tired. This site [1] discusses apple's recycling, though since it isn't apple proper I'm not sure it's authoritative. The relevant details appear to be:

   Apple's recycler for non-Apple product recycling is WeRecycle!, a certified 
   e-Steward.  Certified e-Stewards are recyclers who have been audited by an 
   accredited auditor, and found to be conforming to the rigorous e-Stewards 
   If you are using Apple's trade-in system, this is a different vendor, called 
   Power-On. Power-On is not an e-Steward (and they don't disclose their 
   recycling partner), so this trade-in program therefore does not benefit from 
   independent auditing to high standards.
   However, Apple has a very strong policy regarding responsible recycling of 
   e-waste, stating that all e-waste collected in their programs is handled in 
   the same region in which it is collected (and therefore not exported to 
   developing countries). They prohibit use of prison labor for recycling, as 
   well as incineration and landfilling of e-waste.
So that sound reasonable, but it would be much better if there were a direct statement on Apple's site.

[1] http://www.electronicstakeback.com/how-to-recycle-electronic...

Look up e-waste in general and you'll find more than enough to read..

The difficulty is always in chasing these companies around following every step and verifying they actually do as they claim. Typically, unfortunately, and especially where expenses without profits are concerned, they don't.

The other problem is now they've made the product this much more difficult to recycle and far more toxic. Somehow, however it happens, huge volumes of Apple's incredibly popular products continue to end up discarded in places where they should not be, and when the "recyclers" get them, the glue, especially the glued batteries and glass, will be a big nasty problem.

NatGeo has done a few programs, and this larger feature discusses the big picture: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/high-tech-trash/ca...

This photo gets a lot of circulation when the topic of e-waste comes up, largely because of the recognizable brand. http://marketingheart.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/waste-chin... To be fair nobody knows how the keyboard got there. But it makes a point, it's there, what happens next..?

We aren't talking about e-waste in general.

We are talking specifically about Apple. What evidence do you have that Apple is knowingly letting children be exposed to toxic materials. It's a HUGE claim to make.

Aside from e-waste, "Apple is knowingly letting children be exposed to toxic materials" was established with the iPhone screen cleaning story, where hexyl hydride, which evaporates faster than alcohol but is extremely toxic, had to be used to shave mere seconds off the assembly line speed.


The Apple factories are notorious for hiring underage workers.


These findings have been covered in Apple's shareholder report, so it's not like they can be contested.


> Apple found more than 91 children working at its suppliers last year, nine times as many as the previous year, according to its annual report on its manufacturers.

> The US company has also acknowledged for the first time that 137 workers were poisoned at a Chinese firm making its products and said less than a third of the facilities it audited were complying with its code on working hours.

There's no such thing as an "Apple factory". Apple doesn't own factories. And Foxconn makes products for more companies than just Apple.

Thanks for digging up that reference, it's interesting.

Regarding the recycling of Apple products, your reference says: "Power-On is not an e-Steward (and they don't disclose their recycling partner), so this trade-in program therefore does not benefit from independent auditing to high standards."

This sounds to me it may be consistent with the grandparent post's statement that they are carted off to india to be torn apart by child laborers to find precious metals while using toxic chemicals that shorten their lives. If the recycler refuses to say who is doing the work, where or how, and refuses to allow independent outside auditing, it is unlikely it is being done in a responsible manner.

I posted a quote from Apple's (Canadian) website up the page. The programs vary by country so they post different info on different country pages.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4212398 http://www.apple.com/ca/recycling/

Given that they're not 100% recyclable (electronics aren't), what do they do with the nonrecyclable parts if they don't dump them or burn them?

My recollection is that Apple has not compared very favorable with their competitors in this respect for a while now. And now that their products are becoming increasingly difficult to repair/disassemble, perhaps the strategy is to bail now rather than face even poorer ratings in the future?

Even without structural changes, the new Apple has never been environmentally friendly. They "design for the dump" and bring out new versions every year, and quickly obsolete old versions.

In my personal experience, Mac computers tend to last much longer than their Windows counterparts. For example, my parents continued to use a Mac SE they bought in 1989 until about 2005, and I know several people who continue to use 8–10 year-old Mac laptops. My last two Mac laptops have each lasted 4–5 years, and the one I’m typing on is still going strong.

I don’t think a reasonable evidence-backed case can be made for your implication that Mac laptops are designed to be obsolete more quickly than, e.g., HP, Dell, or Toshiba laptops.

"I don’t think a reasonable evidence-backed case can be made for your implication that Mac laptops are designed to be obsolete more quickly than, e.g., HP, Dell, or Toshiba laptops."

Just more obsolete than all the laptops that can be serviced and upgraded without the same restrictions. I wouldn't go lumping all of the models from all of those makers and settling for a blanket statement like that because that reads false just by picking one model that passes the conditionals, just one per any given maker.

In the end it is a choice and some will try to sugar coat that choice with whatever makes them feel better about it.

But if you have to imagine a given brand tops the lot because you "don't think a reasonable evidence-backed case can be made", when it clearly can, that speaks lots about brand engadgement from your part as a customer and not much else to the merit of that brand, and stand for the ethics behind it.

There are piles of evidence that Apple's computers have a longer useful life than a typical PC if you look for it. For instance, comparing measures of installed base vs market share. Here are a couple of links. If you put some time into it, you can find more going back to the 80s and 90s:


http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/9E601E8E-2AC... (cmd-f for "Mac vs PC Life Span")

By your own provided links, and some third party information on the subject it should be considered that;

The second hand market for such a highly valued brand is a factor that improves real product life cycle. Also, access to said premium priced devices and user brand entanglement tend to slant device usage past its prime.

Pc's (mostly corporate windows machines) tend to be cycled at higher rates, and that has to do with finantial arrangements linked to fiscal incentives. This data will slant any analisys that doesn't account for this specific motivation.

I was just showing how the premise presented by the poster didn't hold up if only one single model per poster referenced brand showed positive.

So, machines that can be serviced and upgraded without the same restrictions, in comparison, will have expanded usage life cycle. This is parallel to your provided information but doesn't become mute by its introduction, it does however make good thinking points on the amount of waste we currently produce...

I think we should distinguish between Apple's _restrictions_ (as in App Store policy) and the _constraints of their engineering_ (as in the serviceability of unibody laptops.) I'd venture the latter is weighed against e.g. weight and battery life, not "restricted" out of spite.

Could Apple deliver the specs of a Retina MBP with a replaceable battery?

> Could Apple deliver the specs of a Retina MBP with a replaceable battery?

They can certainly deliver the specs without switching to proprietary screws. That colors their other actions and makes it far more likely that the unreplaceable battery is about control and not about delivering certain specs.

I was more referring to their mobile division, but it applies to some extent to Macs.

I wouldn’t expect that Apple is far from the industry norm in any of these categories. Most phones of every brand are replaced every 2–3 years.

If you meant merely that electronic consumer gadgets as a category seem to get dumped out too quickly, I heartily agree.

I would expect Apple to be better than the average. The 2nd hand market is quite strong and they only release a new model once a year and don't drop their prices within the life time of the model. Also there is at least some avenue for recycling.

Compare to their competitors. They release more models quicker, poor 2nd hand market, and they aggressively drive down prices. How do you recycle a Samsung or HTC? Do I have to rely on services provided by local government? Do they have stores that act as drop off points?

That said, I hope they have a way to maintain the same level of recyclability as their old products. It would be shitty of them not to.

My personal experience is that the phones are built to last. My iPhone 3G is now 4 years old, and receives heavy daily use from my 15yo daughter. The battery runs all day - it's still totally reliable and doing good service. That's more than I'd expect from a phone after 4 years.

I'd make the exact opposite claim. Apple's been extremely aggressive about minimizing their impact on the environment. They've reduced or eliminated packaging whenever possible, reducing the carbon costs of transporting their products. Heck, they've stopped physical shipment of their software, which means they're no longer pressing media and shipping boxes around the world.

When it comes to their machines, they've aggressively moved to using more recyclable materials throughout the entire product line and taken steps to reduce toxic chemicals used during production and assembly. Based on the OP and other articles, it does seem that some machines are less recyclable than others, but overall they've taken huge steps to improve recyclability. If nothing else, current machines are certainly more green than "old Apple's" machines (or any other manufacturer's machines of which I'm aware).

Thanks to the increased importance of mobile products, even their OS is more power efficient than most others out there. They've gone to lengths to architect the system to be aggressive about stepping or powering down hardware when it's not needed, and to also be intelligent about when work needs to be done so that the system's more often in a reduced power mode. Because they make the whole widget, the hardware and software are complimentary in reducing power drain. The same reason a MacBook Pro gets 20 hours of battery life is why an iMac pulls less wattage that other desktops.

Finally, addressing your explicit point: a machine's only obsolete if it no longer meets your needs. I know people still using PowerPC Macs, or early generation Intel hardware. Apple no more "designs for the dump" than any other computer or phone manufacturer. Everyone releases new hardware every year and wishes consumers would immediately upgrade. Ultimately its up to the consumers themselves to upgrade; no one's forcing them to buy new hardware.

Again, comparing "old Apple" to "new Apple" – Mac OS 8.1 was the final OS release that supported 68040 Macintoshes. The first 68040 shipped in 1993 and Mac OS 8.1 shipped in 1998 (as did 8.5, which removed support for the 68040), giving us a supported OS lifetime of ~5 years. This month OS X 10.8 ships, which will remove support for 1st generation 64-bit Intel hardware (those machines ran 32-bit EFI which can't support OS X's 64-bit kernel). The oldest supported machines will be the second generation Core 2 Duo and Xeon, which shipped in 2007. That gives us a supported OS lifetime of ~5 years. Old Apple seems rather similar to new Apple, in this regard.

According to Mactracker, Macintosh 128k only had a supported OS lifetime of 2 years – System File 3.2/Finder 5.3 are the last supported Macintosh software releases, and they debuted in 1986, just two years after the first Macintosh. Perhaps "new Apple" is better than "old Apple". ;-)

Nice comment overall, interesting facts about os support, especially the support of the 128.

However, 20 hours of battery life for the MacBook pro? Where can I get one of those? My MacBook pro gets 4, maybe 5 if I am lucky, and I even use a utility which switches to integrated graphics when on battery. 2011 15" MacBook pro.

Doh, should have fact checked that statement. The 20h is a power stat I've heard for another product, and it was stuck in my head as I wrote that post earlier today.

7h is the advertised time for the latest MBPs and the 13" MBA. Sorry for the mix up!

This is balanced by the fact that Apple has an incredibly strong second-hand market.

Good point. I once thought I could get a cheap Mac second hand.

Boy was I wrong.

I saw a site with a sale on used iBooks earlier today. $140 for a 12" 1.33 GHz G4 with a 30 day warranty. That's a 7 year old computer that can't run anything newer than 10.5, and won't run recent versions of any 3rd party software. I don't understand who buys these.

It still works perfectly as a nice typing machine, it will play your music etc. A friend of mine is a musician and considers getting a PowerBook (!) to run an older version of PureData. The machine is cheap (which matters to him) and still you can get a lot of kick out of it.

I'd rather spend an extra $100 on a decent netbook, mostly because of the warranty. Spending $140 for a piece of hardware that might fry in 91 days feels risky to me.

It'll probably run OpenBSD just fine. Got a link to that site?

Well, it's already running a BSD variant.

So what- are you saying that any company that builds products with a strong secondary market or longer shelf life than the category norm should be exempt from maximizing recycle-ability?

Apple has actually been best-in-class for a while. The problem with Greenpeace's rating is that it doesn't take into account that Apple uses mostly aluminum and glass in their products, which are both extremely durable and recyclable.

Maybe so and maybe not. But when I first saw the Greenpeace rankings, I was astonished that they awarded HP points for using large quantities of recycled raw materials to create consumable plastic parts explicitly designed to deter re-use, and for planning to do even more of this in the future.

I'm sure our handy friends in Africa will find a way to pry even Retina MacBooks apart with their bare hands.

Well, I have more respect for Apple now, and still none for Greenpeace.

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