City of SF won’t buy Macs without EPEAT certification


We sort of knew this was coming. Just days after news hit that Apple no longer wants its computers and monitors evaluated for EPEAT certification, the first public agency has said it will no longer be allowed to buy Macs as a result.

The City of San Francisco is (unsurprisingly) first up, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Officials with the San Francisco Department of Environment told CIO Journal on Monday they would send out letters over the next two weeks, informing all 50 of the city’s agencies that Apple laptops and desktops “will no longer qualify” for purchase with city funds.

It doesn’t mean future purchases will be totally impossible: the city does have a waiver application if someone really wants a Mac in the future, though the process is described as “long and onerous.” However, Apple will barely notice those missing sales: Less than 2 percent of San Francisco city computers are Macs, according to the report.

Apple already had 39 of its computers and monitors certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, a standards group funded by the EPA, when it asked the group to drop its products from its rankings last month. The reason? Apple’s design priorities. Thinner and lighter devices will presumably no longer meet the standards requiring easy disassembly and recycling of its parts.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that many public agencies — which are often required to take a detailed look at product labels and buy EPEAT-certified electronics — would be out of luck when it comes to purchasing new Macs. Some large corporations and possibly even schools follow the same policies. But, as I wrote yesterday, it’s less certain if individual consumers will have the same concerns.


Rubinn Jeffries

The city of San Francisco informed it’s employee’s that Macintosh was off the equipment list… last March! Their latest statement regarding EPEAT is just opportunistic justification of that unpopular decision.


i m think majority thinking is different
no one still in market to take place of apple


Not a prediction but pure speculation on my part: what we may see in a few months or possibly years is EPEAT creating a new category of certification that covers electronic devices which cannot be disassembled by end users but are fully recycled when returned to their manufacturers. Under this hypothetical new category, EPEAT would tell public agencies “these devices are certified as EPEAT-compliant so long as you have such-and-such arrangement made with the manufacturer for device collection.” This will come after much behind-the-scenes negotiation and lobbying. Because this isn’t just about Apple: the trend in gadgets will always be towards thinner and lighter. The makers of those gadgets can theoretically do the best job of breaking their gadgets down and reclaiming all the materials that can be recycled, and EPEAT could help encourage more of them to do so…IF they stay relevant.


Apple will gladly accept your Mac and recycle it themselves. So what’s the big deal here?

Syrh G

The problem is that they’re now *un*recyclable. Separating the batteries from the case releases toxic materials. Not even Apple or Sims Recycling can recycle them now.


Where did this info come from? Apple’s site does not differentiate the Retina Macbook from any other computer as far as their recycling statements online


Separating the batteries from the case releases toxic materials? What materials are “released”? What process causes them to be released? Where are they released to? Is it impossible to contain these toxins?

I heard that the battery is glued to the case. Can the glue not be removed? Is it some super-glue that is impossible to remove without destroying the earth? Does it melt through the ground and get absorbed by the groundwater?

Where are you getting your information? I find your assertions dubious at best.

Jose M

I think the time is right for this change. You can already configure a Macbook Pro with 16GB RAM from factory and the cost is reasonable. Maybe I’m doing a “640k should be enough for everyone” but at 16GB I think I’ll risk it. The SSD is also replaceable and third party options should be out soon. Anything else can go via the Thunderbolt.

I suspect this whole EPEAT break-up had to do with Apple wanting to recycle their computers with their partner, Sims Recycling, who have the tools and resources for Apple’s specific recycling needs.

The problem is other recycling companies have a lot of weight and representation on EPEAT, and they probably would prefer all computers were more or a less the same.

Syrh G

EPEAT is a registry, they have a set of criteria that help companies ensure that their devices are safely recyclable. The reason Apple pulled out is because they no longer qualify. Removing the batteries from the case cause them to rupture. EPEAT never profited by having Apple on their lists, nor do they profit from having any other manufacturer comply. And neither will Sims now.

This isn’t hurting anyone except Apple’s profits and our landfills.

John Molloy

Yeah, our landfills. How much Apple stuff gets thrown in landfills?

Oh, and Apple’s response?

From “The Loop”:

Apple on Tuesday responded to concerns that it asked to have its products removed from EPEAT, the U.S. government’s list of environmentally friendly products.

“Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2,” Apple representative Kristin Huguet, told The Loop. “We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.”

It’s important to note that in addition to not measuring toxins and other environmental areas, EPEAT also doesn’t measure smartphones or tablets. Clearly these are two areas that are vitally important for Apple and not covered by EPEAT.

Companies like Dell have 171 products listed on EPEAT, but yet if you look on Dell’s Web site, none of their computers are even Energy Star Compliant.

By its own admission, the EPEAT certifications are old.

“Part of it is expanding EPEAT’s global reach through the multiple certification [process]; as well as moving into new, additional products; as well as updating the EPEAT [certifications], because they’re a little long in the tooth. [Each of those] is a huge project on its own,” Christine Ervin, an EPEAT board member told GreenBiz in March.

The hubbub over Apple pulling out of EPEAT is interesting because the products that were listed as gold products by the environmental organization are the same ones Apple is currently selling.

Apple has done more than any other technology company in recent memory to be environmentally friendly. What’s more, Apple publishes everything that makes up its carbon footprint on its Web site. Again, this is something EPEAT doesn’t measure.

Michael W. Perry

I studied electrical engineering at the same school (Auburn University, 1972) where Tim Cook later studied industrial engineering. When I was there, we’d have called designs where art rules over function “artsy fartsy.” That short of design should be left to the art school, where they design things to be displayed but not used.

Apple’s growing obsession with “thinner and lighter” to the exclusion of all else illustrates that artsy silliness. I don’t want a thinner MacBook Air. The case or backpack I’ll be carrying it in will be several inches thick anyway.

What I want is a battery life longer than the current 7 hours of the 11″ MBA. That requires a thicker case. And I want a MBA that’s like my 5-year-old MacBook, one that uses easily replace, industry-standard parts. I don’t want my laptop to be stuck forever thereafter with the feature-set I originally purchased.

The Gnome

I don’t think the majority agree with you, and thats why Apple is going this direction.

Personally anyone I know will take thinner and more innovative, even if it means they aren’t following some random epat type certification. That stuff means nothing to me. (and I do care about the environment, I just don’t get caught up in government control and agencies that can’t themselves start to become forward thinking)


EPEAT is about being able upgrade a laptop for longevity as well as recycle it. Neither are possible for the new Macbook. Its a single unit disposable laptop. Thinner is the only thing Macbooks have ever had goign for them, if you think they are in any way innovative, you need to start reading something other than Apple ads and CNet.


Another damn lie?

You are free to return old laptop to Apple store and it will be recycle by their partner according to highest environmental standards. Yes, it includes rMBP.

banana slug

I totally disagree with Michael W. Perry. I don’t own a car so when commuting 2 hours a day by bus and train I appreciate Apple’s engineering. I am also a resident in the City of San Francisco and I think they are being stupid.


Apple doesn’t build busses or trains, so your point is? If you are trying to say Apple has great battery life or light weight you are very wrong on both counts. Not sure how being 0.1 inches thinner is such a huge advantage for a Macbook when you have 0.5 lbs extra weight and 2 hours less battery than a comparable Windows PC.



Please give me an example of that mythical comparable Windows PC. I take only exact model number.
Without that i need to consider your rant as another lie under this article.

Peter Antypas

Then why don’t YOU go about designing and building one?

Not an EE

Thinness is a function, too. Are you saying that people buying laptops ought to value “recyclability” more than “size”?

I mean, sure, maybe they should. You should get upset with the laptop-buying public, then, not Apple. It’s hard to argue that Apple is doing a poor job of selling laptops these days.

I think it’s a very good thing that electrical engineers are not put in charge of computer design, because people who buy computers apparently want what EE’s dismiss as “artsy fartsy”.

Other things I have heard actual EE’s wish their computers had (yes, this century): AIX, a good FORTRAN compiler, a 16-button puck instead of a mouse, and front-panel switches for toggling in programs. Thank goodness these people design our CPUs and motherboards, and stay away from everything else!


Its easy to argue that Apple is doing a poor job of selling laptops, in the last 4 years their market share in the US has dropped from an all time high of almost 10% of laptops sold, to less than 5%. Macbooks are irrelevant.


Damn lie. Apple’s computer market share is US is 12% today. I don’t know current number for laptop’s share, but last time it was over 20%.

Brandon Borrelli

I want to apologize for how many Apple zealots have bashed your post. You are an intelligent man, and I thank you for your unbiased, true, and non-superficial reasoning.
(PS sacrificing multiple functions for the sole purpose of making the MBA lighter technically decreases its functionality. Come on people, develop some basic logic.) Don’t let the foundations for your reasoning be shaken by the brain-washed banter of Apple worshipers. Bravo.

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