Apple not big on trees? Greenpeace releases "green electronics" report

Over at Download Squad today, we're talking about the report on "green electronics" and "e-waste" that Greenpeace released this morning. It's no secret that environmentalists have been unhappy with Apple--despite their claims to be an eco-friendly company--for a long time. This is the first time, though, that a big environmental group has gone out and ranked some of the major players, and Apple came in 11th out of the 14 companies rated. More disappointing than the ranking--somebody's got to be last, right?--was Apple's overall score: 2.7 out of ten. Companies were scored on a number of factors, from recycling programs, hazardous materials usage, and Apple came up wanting in just about everything.

The good news? Many of the issues are easy to fix. For instance, Apple has a lousy recycling program. They only accept consumer takebacks in five markets, and then only with purchase of a new Apple machine. They could change that policy tomorrow to accept any used Apple product for recycling, free of charge. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't cost that much and it might keep some Lithium and Mercury-laden computers and batteries out of the trash. They could also start accepting any machines as trade-ins. Bring in your old ThinkPad and leave it at the Apple Store when you walk out with your new MBP. They already do this for for corporate and education customers. Heck, if you're a school they'll even give you money for a trade-in on your old Dells. Why not at least offer to accept consumer equipment, and make a point of publicizing the fact.

Apple also needs to make a public and transparent commitment to banning hazardous substances. They've said they're committed to stopping the use of toxic PVC parts and Bromine Fire Retardant (BFR) coatings. But when? Just give us a date, Steve. Nokia stopped using PVC in 2005 and will be BFR-free by 2007. The parts that go into a MacBook aren't that different from the parts that go into a Nokia 770. There are more of them in the MB, but they're not that different. The other thing most companies seem to be able to do that Apple can't be bothered with is actually publishing a list of all the materials in their products. On that issue, transparency would itself be a huge step in the right direction.

And finally, they need to stop passing the buck when it comes to their partners. We know that Apple employees are environmentally conscious, and 1 Infinite Loop is a pretty green place. Even Greenpeace acknowledges that. It's time Apple starts holding its suppliers, contractors, and manufacturers to the same high standards.

There's no reason the answer to "Who will be first to go green?" shouldn't be "Apple." And since they've got one of the smallest manufacturing operations of the companies surveyed and they already claim to be eco-friendly, it'll actually be kind of sad if that isn't the answer.