Apple gives itself a Gold grade for laptop where the battery is glued in
Apple rejoined the EPEAT green electronics program today, relisting its qualifying products on the EPEAT registry of computer products that meet the IEEE standard 1680.1 for environmentally preferable attributes. Apple published a statement on its website today, from Senior VP Bob Mansfield, saying that leaving EPEAT “was a mistake.”
Apple took a lot of heat for quitting EPEAT. The City of San Francisco had said they would no longer purchase Apple computers. The San Jose Mercury news published a scathing editorial yesterday, calling on Apple to “think green, not greed.”
Apple had unexpectedly quit the EPEAT program recently, suddenly removing all of its products from the registry – the list that EPEAT maintains to let purchasers know which products are EPEAT-rated, and at what rating level (bronze, silver, or gold). This move was surprising, given that Apple has been a leader in many aspects of environmental design, like selecting recyclable, and less toxic materials. All its products on the registry were at the Gold level.
It’s generally believed that Apple had quit EPEAT because it’s new flagship laptop – the Mac Book Pro with retina display – couldn’t meet some of EPEAT’s “Design for End of Life” criteria because Apple glues the battery into the laptop with industrial strength glue. This makes it impossible for consumers to replace the battery themselves, but even the super-experienced repair guys at iFixit couldn’t remove the battery without puncturing it, “releasing hazardous goo all over.”
Apple should flunk EPEAT for gluing in the battery
While we are very glad to see that Apple has rejoined the EPEAT program, we are astonished to see that in reposting its products to the EPEAT registry, Apple has actually listed four versions of the Mac Book Pro with retina as EPEAT Gold level products. We seriously doubt that these Mac Books should qualify for EPEAT at any level because we think they flunk two required criteria in the “Design for End of Life” section of the standard. They are:
- Criterion 188.8.131.52: External enclosures shall be easily removable by one person alone with commonly available tools.
While you can open up the enclosure, you can’t completely remove one half of the casing from the large group of batteries. They are glued to the case with industrial strength glue.
- Criterion 184.108.40.206 Identification and removal of components containing hazardous materials.
This criteria specifically applies to batteries, as well as circuit boards over 10 cm2 and other components, and says they must be safely and easily removable. Gluing the battery in does not quality as “easily removable.” In fact, it’s exactly the kind of design that this standard seeks to discourge.
It’s important to understand that the manufacturers grade themselves against the EPEAT criteria first, and then EPEAT conducts a review of this grading. That EPEAT review has not yet occurred. They can require the manufacturers to remove any product from the registry if it is not found to conform to the IEEE standard.
Apple is often a design leader in electronics, but they really blew it here. They are ignoring a really important design goal here – designing to promote product longevity and reuse. Designers should make it as easy as possible for users to replace their own batteries. This is like designing a car with tires that you can’t replace when you have a flat without making an appointment at the dealer and paying them a hefty fee for the tire.
We hope Apple’s next version of this Mac Book Pro comes with a removable battery.