Webby Award Guide to Greener electronics Apple fans Challenge

iPoison + iWaste

Apple products - sleek looks, amazing design, meticulous attention to detail. So what's with the toxic chemicals inside, short life spans and allowing their products to be dumped in Asia?

None of this fits with Apple's iLife image, and none of this is making Apple a successful company. So why hasn't Steve improved Apple's design?

Well it seems Apple just doesn't prioritize environmental concerns. Sure, they have a nice Environment section on their website. But it's not linked from the front page, and it's hard to find unless you know where to look. Of course it says how great Apple's policies are. But if you look under the hood, Apple's policies are as ugly as a beige box circa 1989.

Here's where we want Apple to be:

Toxic chemicals:

toxic chemicalsToxic chemicals in electronics are a big problem. More and more tech gadgets are produced and disposed of every year. This means more toxic pollution when they are produced and when they are thrown away.

That's the bad news. The good news is that alternatives do exist.

Apple can remove the worst chemicals from its products and production processes. But it's not even close to this goal.

What a good Apple looks like

Take the example of the toxic plastic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Other companies have set a date to remove PVC from their products. Apple hasn't. Major new product lines like the iPod nano and MacBook still contain PVC.

We want all new Apple product ranges launched from 2007 onwards to be free of the worst toxic chemicals in the production process and products themselves. Now that would make us proud of Apple.

Product take back

Apple keyboardA basic environmental principle is that if you make and sell a product you should be responsible for that product when it is no longer wanted. This is also a basic rule for children: you clean up your own mess.

Dell and Hewlett Packard (HP) both support this principle, which goes by the very grown-up name of Individual Producer Responsibility.


Apple does have some take back programs. In Europe and Japan, it must offer this service by law. Under pressure from the computertakeback campaign in the U.S., Apple has recently made some piecemeal concessions on its take-back policy. But these only apply in the U.S. and fall far short of a comprehensive global take back policy.

This would be a big step to preventing most Apple products from ending up dumped in the e-waste yards of Asia.

Kid stuff, really

You'd think that a company with headquarters at '1 Infinite Loop,' would understand the concept of recycling. If Apple is really so proud of its well-made products there shouldn't be any problem promoting a global take-back program for all of its products.

Product life span

We get angry when our iPod breaks just after the one-year warranty expires. We get annoyed when Apple says it's cheaper to buy a new one than fix the old one. We hate it when we are reduced to selling our old broken PowerBook keyboard on eBay for five bucks. These are common consumer woes resulting from Apple designing products with short life spans. If Apple had to take back its old products, you can bet it would start designing longer lasting products that are easier to reuse and recycle.

Apple has good taste, and we want that flavor to last.

See the difference

Imagine if the next iPod launch was an upgrade to the iPod you already have, with a new component you could just swap out, instead of replacing the entire thing? That would save you money, extend the lifespan of your iPod, and save the resources and energy required to make a new iPod.

Campaign history:

Greenpeace contacts Apple for information on their chemicals policy.
Follow-up reminder on Greenpeace request to Apple.
Greenpeace Chemical Home database launched; Apple graded red on their chemical policy.
Samsung is the first major electronics company to commit to phasing out all BFRs and PVC.
First meeting between Greenpeace and Apple – no movement from Apple on chemicals policy.
Second meeting between Greenpeace and Apple – still no commitment from Apple on strengthening its chemical policy.
Nokia commits to phasing out all BFRs and PVC.
Sony and Sony Ericsson commit to phasing out all BFRs and PVC.
Third meeting between Greenpeace and Apple – still no change in Apple’s chemical policy. Greenpeace gives Apple advance notice that Greenpeace will be ranking it on their chemical policy as well as their waste policy in 2006.
LG Electronics commits to phasing out all BFRs and PVC.
HP commits to phase out BFRs and PVC.
Fourth meeting between Greenpeace and Apple called by Apple to update Greenpeace on obstacles to phasing out PVC and BFRs.
Dell commits to a plan to phase out a list of hazardous chemicals with priority on BFR and PVC by 2009. Dell also announces takeback scheme for any Dell product, in US from September 2006 and globally from November 2006.
Two calls between Greenpeace and Apple initiated by Apple to discuss Apple’s draft ranking on Guide to Greener Electronics. No policy change forth coming from Apple.
Guide to Greener Electronics launched: Apple gets 2.7/10 and finds itself fourth from the bottom of the ranking.
First analysis of an Apple laptop: Independant sampling revealed that MacBook Pro contained PVC and BFRs.
Green my Apple campaign launched. No official response from Apple to date.
Due to positive moves from other companies Apple is bottom of the second version of the Guide to Greener Electronics.
Two environmental resolutions by Social Responsible Investment funds filed for the 2007 Apple Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Apple makes its first official comment on the greenmyapple campaign claiming that their existing policy of no longer selling CRT monitors and the eliminating RoHS chemicals (which all other companies like Dell/HP and Lenovo have already eliminated) is the clear example of their environmental record.
The Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld passes without any mention of environmental improvements from Apple.
Dell CEO Michael Dell challenges the electronics industry to take responsibility for its waste on a global level.
Rumours spread of a potential environmental announcement from Apple following a meeting between one Social Responsible Investment fund and Steve Jobs.
Greenpeace and 70 other US NGOs request that Al Gore (Apple Board Director) supports the environmental resolutions filed for the Apple AGM.
The third version of the Greenpeace Guide for Greener Electronics released, Apple is the only company that made no movement since the first version of the guide (Aug 06) and remains in last position.
The Apple Board of Directors states that it unanimously rejects the two environmental shareholder resolutions.
Good news! Steve responds with an open letter about Apple's environment policy. Good progress from Apple but not the end. We hope Steve's next statement will mark out Apple as a green leader.

Really PVC free?

PVC - Poision PlasticsSure, Apple is proud to highlight that the iPod shuffle External Battery Pack and other minor accessories are PVC free, but that's not exactly a major high-volume product line is it?

Fringe Benefits

Many of the changes Apple takes environmental credit for (Flat screens replacing CRT monitors, wireless reducing cables, banning certain chemicals) are just side-effects of changes made for design considerations or required by new laws.

"Power has never been this much fun"

Back in April 2005, Steve Jobs publicly called environmentalists' concerns about Apple "bullshit". Come on Steve, we'd expect that kind of reaction from fat corporate CEOs who dump polychlorinated biphenyls into rivers, not from a cool, potentially eco-friendly titan of the information age.


The small print - what this campaign is NOT about:
These are the three areas we are asking Apple to improve. There are other aspects to being a green company like energy efficiency and packaging reduction, but we are focusing on improvements that will help stem the tide of toxic e-waste.