Apple’s decision to remove its products from the EPA-funded EPEAT standards was likely intended to be a quiet move. It wasn’t. When you’re the most influential tech company out there, anything you do is going to come under scrutiny. So in no time at all, Apple found the City of San Francisco saying it intended to stop buying Macs if they weren’t ranked by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool.
Apple’s position since the story broke has been that it follows plenty of other green standards, which it does lay out clearly on its website. But the reaction from the City of SF provoked a longer statement from Apple on Tuesday, essentially repeating the same idea, but in more detail. For Apple’s thoughts, see The Loop.
It’s very true that Apple has made an effort to keep dangerous chemicals out of its products. And that is likely satisfactory to a lot of individual consumers. But that doesn’t address the recycling question. The move signals that future MacBooks that won’t be EPEAT certified — therefore will not be as recyclable by individuals — and will theoretically still end up in a landfill some day. And e-waste is e-waste — it still needs to be dealt with. More crucially for businesses, Apple’s statement doesn’t address the standards issue, which government purchasing departments and corporate IT buyers still have to adhere to — many are required to buy EPEAT-certified computers.
So what is Apple up to? Well, the company might actually be cooking up a solution by contributing to a future recycling standard that is more up to date. The Green Electronics Council that administers EPEAT certification said that it’s been trying to update its standards to fit how today’s electronics are manufactured. The group’s spokeswoman told Fortune that a group including Apple has “just delivered reports on a number of preliminary questions which will inform the IEEE 1680.1 standard refresh process, expected to launch shortly.”
Does this mean Apple will buy back into EPEAT if a new standard fits its design priorities and environmental goals? I guess we’ll have to see.