MacBook Air 13-inch front view with grass wallpaper

Apple gave eco-friendly computer fans a brief jolt this July after it backed out of EPEAT certification, only to restore most devices just days later. While we can't say we're completely shocked at the follow-up, EPEAT has confirmed that at least one "ultra-thin" laptop from Apple has just cleared the verification process. The as yet unnamed system is more likely to be a Mac that had already earned the recycling-friendly rating in the past, such as the MacBook Air, rather than a sudden turnaround for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The look wasn't exclusively devoted to the Mac side, though -- EPEAT cleared Apple's computer as part of a wider test that also greenlit extra-thin portables from Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba. We've reached out to get a more definitive list, but the approvals should ease the minds of those worried that ever-slimmer laptops are forcing us to give up our green efforts.

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EPEAT Announces Latest Notebook Verification Findings

Green electronics rating system confirms that all products tested met rigorous environmental criteria

Portland, OR, October 12, 2012 -- EPEAT today released the results of a verification process that tested five different "ultra-thin" notebooks to ascertain their conformance with the green rating system's stringent requirements. These products had come under close scrutiny in public discussions this past summer. Products from Apple, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba were investigated in this verification process. All products investigated met the requirements of the criteria reviewed.

"EPEAT is committed to foster greener electronics and to give purchasers the tools to evaluate green claims," said Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT. "The system's rigorous environmental assessment processes result from a powerful stake holder collaboration that includes purchasers, government, manufacturers, recyclers and academic participants. This latest series of stringent investigations demonstrates the power of that approach."

The findings released today are the culmination of a lengthy review of a number of specific criteria – and of a broad array of notebook products registered in the EPEAT system. Specific areas of concern addressed included whether products could be upgraded, if tools were commonly available to accomplish upgrades, and whether materials of concern including batteries could be easily removed from ultrathin products.

To ensure the integrity of the registry, EPEAT undertook a number of fundamental inquiries. These included:

• a request for formal clarification of the standard requirements from the independent Product Verification Committee (PVC) – a group of experts on electronics and environmental issues who provide interpretation of conformity requirements and rule on verification findings
• a comprehensive review of publicly available technical information for notebook products in the EPEAT registry.
• an independent verification investigation for those products where public information did not resolve questions of potential nonconformance.

For the verification investigation, EPEAT contracted with a technical test lab to independently purchase these devices on the open market, and disassemble them according to the instructions provided.

Following their disassembly investigation, the test lab recommended that all the products be found to satisfy EPEAT requirements. After reviewing the data and recommendations provided by the lab, the PVC found all investigated products to be in conformance with EPEAT criteria, clearing the way for all the products investigated to remain on the EPEAT registry. Additional details of the investigation may be found below.

The information garnered through these investigations will help stakeholders currently engaged in updating the PC/Display standard to ensure that the criteria address the market direction and design innovations leading toward thinner, lighter products.

Clarification of Standard Requirements

The EPEAT PVC determined that, based on the clear wording of the relevant criteria, products could be considered upgradable if they contained an externally-accessible port through which additional capacity could be supplied to the registered product (or if they could be upgraded through physical replacement of parts).

The PVC also ruled that tools required for disassembly or upgrade of registered products are deemed 'commonly available' if they can be purchased by any individual or business on the open market, are not proprietary and do not require agreements between the buyer and seller.

The PVC declined to specify precise parameters for what constitutes "easy and safe" disassembly or removal of components, because they noted such terms could encompass different details depending on the specifics of the product class in question and must be demonstrated in action.

Comprehensive Review and Surveillance

EPEAT staff performed a detailed surveillance review of all small and light products registered in the system. This review identified specific types of ultrathin construction that seemed most likely to encounter issues meeting the criteria of concern. This eliminated the majority of products under review, and left five products from four manufacturers with significant unresolved questions relating to conformance.

Verification

Investigation of the remaining five products was conducted through a formal verification investigation. In keeping with EPEAT's standard approach, manufacturers subject to investigation were not notified in advance, and investigation was based on product registrations prior to the verification notification. (For more about verification in EPEAT, see http://www.epeat.net/learn-more/verification/)

EPEAT requested standard disassembly instructions from each manufacturer for the products in question, then commissioned a technical test lab to independently purchase these devices on the open market, and disassemble them according to the instructions provided. Lab personnel were not trained recycling professionals, so they could be expected to provide more universally applicable data regarding questions of time and ease of disassembly than would a demonstration by a recycler.

The lab disassembled each of the purchased products with full documentation of each disassembly process, including its overall duration. Time for total disassembly of each of the products was under 20 minutes in all cases; for the removal of batteries the time required was between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. As noted above, these times probably exceed what a skilled recycler would require. Given their findings, the lab recommended that all products be found in conformance with EPEAT requirements.