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SF Won't be Picking Apples

By Vivian Wagner MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 11, 2012 9:19 AM PT

Apple's withdrawal of its computers from the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry is having ripple effects, including the loss of business from the city and county of San Francisco.

SF Won't be Picking Apples

San Francisco, like many governmental agencies, businesses and universities, requires that its computer equipment be on the EPEAT registry.

"Apple's decision has caught us off guard a bit," Jon Walton, chief information officer for San Francisco, told MacNewsWorld. "It has put us in an awkward position. EPEAT is the only standard that we have in the city that we can use to judge the environmental impact of electronics."

A Leader Goes Off Course

Apple has not publicly explained why it is removing Macs from the registry, and it did not respond to our request to comment for this story. The company may have withdrawn because some of its newer computers, including the Retina MacBook Pro, do not allow for the degree of disassembly and recyclability required by EPEAT's standards.

Apple's decision has caused considerable consternation, particularly given its leadership position in computer design and marketing.

"When you have a leader taking a step like this without knowing the reasons, it's very disheartening," Arman Sadeghi, CEO of All Green Electronics Recycling, told MacNewsWorld.

Apple's computers have never been particularly easy to disassemble and recycle, noted Sadeghi. The Retina MacBook Pro will be particularly difficult, however, since it has aluminum glued to other components, including glass.

"They're finding that things that are easily recycled and disassembled are costly," said Sadeghi, "but you would hope they would be willing to take some of those costs for the sake of the environment."

Apple's move might even cause other computer manufacturers to devalue EPEAT's registry and standards for green design.

"We look for companies like Apple to be the trendsetters and to take a leading role, and EPEAT is an important part of that," said Sadeghi. "Apple is a trendsetter, and [this] could cause other manufacturers to think that they could get away with the same thing."

City's Impact

Just as Apple is a leader in consumer electronics, San Francisco sets trends in green government. Its decision not to purchase Apple computers might have a significant impact on the situation -- perhaps even influencing Apple to reconsider its withdrawal from EPEAT.

San Francisco's action "goes as a warning to Apple that this withdrawal from EPEAT without providing good reason could backfire," said Sadeghi. "Other cities could definitely jump on board."

San Francisco's move might also make the public more aware of EPEAT and its standards.

"Most people don't know what EPEAT is, but seeing a city like San Francisco take that move is something that people will connect with. A statement from EPEAT means less than a statement from San Francisco," noted Sadeghi.

For its part, San Francisco has not slammed the door on Apple. In fact, it's hoping to have a conversation with the company about the importance of green electronics and environmentally friendly products, and its Department of Environment has reached out to try to start that conversation.

"We're hopeful that we can have a dialogue with Apple," said Walton. "We like Apple products. But we're concerned with the environmental impact of what we buy. We try to look at industry standards, realizing those standards aren't perfect, but they're the only ones we have to follow."

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