How Green is the iPad?

It is easier to avoid controversy in the first place than extract oneself once one has invited it. Apple is finding that its decision to pull out of EPEAT, as described below, continues to dog the company even though Apple had quickly reversed that stance.

EPEAT, in response to continued controversy, announced in October 2012 that a disassembly review of "ultrathin" products from Apple and other "...recommended that all products be found in conformance with EPEAT requirements." This did not silence critics like Greenpeace, who criticized the EPEAT finding.

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Two iPadsApple launched the iPad claiming it is is free of arsenic, BFR (Brominated Flame Retardants), mercury, and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). This contributed to Greenpeace recognizing Apple in 2010 as the consumer electronics company that has done the most to eliminate harmful chemicals from its products.

The iPad tech specs page used to tout its "recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure", but the current page merely says "recyclable aluminum enclosure". Are iPad's becoming less recyclable? Apple's July 2012 decision to pull its products from EPEAT has some thinking they are. blames design decisions like Apple's new Retina display:

It’s no coincidence that the decision came just weeks after the release of the very-difficult-to-repair MacBook Pro with Retina Display. When we tore it down last month, we noticed that EPEAT certification was quietly left out of Apple’s marketing material. Even the environmental report for the new 15-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, which is not much changed from last year’s model, no longer mentions EPEAT at all.

According to my EPEAT contacts, Apple’s mobile design direction is in conflict with the intended direction of the standard. Specifically, the standard lays out particular requirements for product “disassemble-ability,” a very important consideration for recycling: “External enclosures, chassis, and electronic subassemblies shall be removable with commonly available tools or by hand.” Electronics recyclers need to take out hazardous components such as batteries before sending computers through their shredders, because batteries can catch fire when punctured.

That’s why it’s such a problem when manufacturers glue batteries into place with industrial-strength adhesive. 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.

This may be way Apple no longer touts the recyclability of the glass portion of the iPad.

Apple told The Loop that its products are environmentally better overall and that EPEAT has not kept up with the industry and with technology.

EPEAT certification is important to many institutional buyers. Already, the Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal reports that Apple products will no longer qualify for purchase by the city of San Francisco (CA-USA). The city is considered a trend-setter for green government in America.

The iPad has always held a difficult position vis-a-vis e-waste. John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), praised the iPad in 2010 as an e-waste generator.

"We at ERI marvel at visionary entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs who lead their organizations to think outside of the box and provide groundbreaking devices such as this. The side effect of such innovative excellence is that millions of older, obsolete devices will be discarded and left behind as the new superior technology is adopted. Fortunately, organizations such as ERI are committed to the responsible recycling of such items so they do not end up in landfills or illegally exported."


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See how your country's iPad carrier rates as a green telecom.