The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), after an investigation, has certified “ultra-thin” notebook computers which include the Apple MacBook Air as conforming to their green standards.
In a press release published by EPEAT, it said that these “ultra-thin” notebooks “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,” it added.
(For the full EPEAT press release including a brief explanation of its methodology, scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Apple earlier this year pulled out of the EPEAT registry without explaining why.
Apple was then criticized by the general public as well as other organizations because of the move.
After the criticism, Apple Senior Vice President of Engineering Bob Mansfield wrote the following letter which was subsequently posted on the Apple site to address concerns:
“We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.
It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.
For example, Apple led the industry in removing harmful toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We are the only company to comprehensively report greenhouse gas emissions for every product we make, taking into account the entire product lifecycle. And we’ve removed plastics wherever possible, in favor of materials that are more highly recyclable, more durable, more efficient and longer lasting.
Perhaps most importantly, we make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard. No one else in our industry can make that claim.
We think the IEEE 1680.1 standard could be a much stronger force for protecting the environment if it were upgraded to include advancements like these. This standard, on which the EPEAT rating system is based, is an important measuring stick for our industry and its products.
Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve. Our team at Apple is dedicated to designing products that everyone can be proud to own and use.
Meanwhile, EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee said in a statement that “EPEAT is committed to foster greener electronics and to give purchasers the tools to evaluate green claims.”
“The system’s rigorous environmental assessment processes result from a powerful stakeholder collaboration that includes purchasers, environmental advocates, government, manufacturer, recycler and academic participants. This latest series of stringent investigations demonstrates the power of that approach,” he added.
Now, Apple products like the MacBook Air are certified under the EPEAT registry. Here’s an example of a MacBook Air registration on the EPEAT registry:
Here is EPEAT’s full press release:
EPEAT Announces Findings in Ultrathin Notebook Investigations
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 stakeholder collaboration that includes purchasers, environmental advocates, government, manufacturer, recycler 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.
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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.
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.
Image 1 from Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr (CC)