Apple calls climate change 'undeniable,' Greenpeace says repairs matter too

Apple's making commitments competitors should be forced to emulate

Apple, recycling, environment, product design, repair, Greenpeace, ewaste
Credit: Apple/IDGNS

 “Climate change is undeniable. Earth’s resources won’t last forever. And technology must be safe for people to make and use. We don’t question these realities — we challenge ourselves to ask what we can do about them in every part of our business.” Apple

 Apple has denied climate change denial as it commits to using 100 percent recycled materials to make its products. Greenpeace wants Apple to go a little further.

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“We’re moving toward a closed-loop supply chain. One day we’d like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products,” Apple said.

Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook welcomed the promise:

“This commitment, and Apple’s recent progress in transitioning its supply chain in Asia to renewable energy, puts it far ahead of others in the sector,” he said, in a press release supplied to Computerworld.

“Major IT brands such as Samsung, Huawei, and Microsoft should quickly match Apple’s leadership, if they don’t want risk falling even further behind.”

There’s little doubt about that.

Such high-level commitment to environmental responsibility is, in broad terms at least, hard to see among many competing firms. Transparent reporting of any such efforts is even harder to find.

Despite this leadership, Apple can still do more.

Repair, replace

Tear-down reports from iFixit and others show us that while the company’s products are beautifully-designed, their use of advanced components and manufacturing miniaturization makes them hard to repair, or recycle.

“While transitioning to 100 percent recycled materials is critical to reducing the sector's footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair, and recyclable at their end of life,” stressed Greenpeace.

I’ve argued before that as the components used in these products become more proprietary and more advanced, repairs and recycling will become more challenging.

That may be true, but if Apple is truly dedicated to environmental responsibility (and, year-by-year, I’ve seen growing evidence that it is), then it must find some way to make repairs and recycling of its products accessible to every customer.

I’d argue that one approach may be to apply deep cuts to the cost of Apple Care, to provide truly affordable repairs in every Apple Store, and to develop a wider network of third party repair providers for regular problems, like cracked screens.

Addition: Since writing this article I've come across Apple's sweetly amusing video ads explaining some of what it has been doing. You can watch them below.

Recycle

Apple is attempting to ramp up its recycling efforts.

“We’re encouraging more customers to recycle their old devices through Apple Renew,” the company said. “And we’re piloting innovative new recycling techniques, like our line of disassembly robots, so we can put reclaimed materials to better use in new products. It’s an ambitious goal that will require many years of collaboration across multiple Apple teams, our suppliers, and specialty retailers—but our work is already under way.”

An astonishing 95 percent of e-waste could be repaired or recycled, (according to Lovefone).

How can we as consumers persuade other tech firms to match Apple’s commitment? Does government really help address this by relaxing environmental legislation?

Look at the track record

I mentioned Apple’s track record in environmental responsibility.

 From making the transition to being a company powered by renewable energy, Apple is now moving to switch its supply chain to use of renewable energy.

The company has also taken an array of visible steps toward corporate responsibility, from cutting the power demand of its products, to eradicating dangerous materials from its products, to attempting to address the problem of conflict minerals.

(I believe that any company that is not actively working to end dependency on conflict minerals places the cost of its products above the value of human life. I ask why anyone would do business with such companies.)

Perhaps competitors will wake up.

Samsung recently decided to be a little more active in recycling, but even Greenpeace notes it has not gone far enough:

“If it doesn’t want to lag further behind Apple in the race to reduce the effects of its products on the planet, it needs to adopt an ambitious commitment to use recycled materials similar to what Apple has announced today,” wrote Greenpeace’s Cook.

You can read Apple’s Environmental Report here.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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