Waiting for Apple to meet 'computer detox' promise

Posted by jossc — 7 January 2009 at 2:40pm - Comments

Green My Apple logo

Apple's detox promise: close but not quite there yet

Mac fans in our office (and there are more than a few) were getting excited yesterday - we were expecting an announcement from MacWorld 2009 in San Francisco, confirming that Apple would as promised be removing all toxic PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from its entire new product range.

Confidence was high that this was going to happen because we've had the word from the man himself - Apple CEO Steve Jobs - from as far back as May 2007 that toxic PVC and BFRs in Mac computers would be history by the end of 2008. His enthusiam for the subject, of course, initially stemmed from the success of our Green my Apple campaign, which generated huge support and discussion from Mac addicts worldwide.

In October last year he reiterated this promise:

"Last year we announced the unprecedented goal of eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from Apple products by the end of 2008. I’m proud to report that all of Apple's new product designs are on track to meet our 2008 year-end goal." Steve Jobs, October 2008

However, the only new product Apple has announced so far at this year's Macworld was a new MacBook Pro with reduced amounts of PVC and BFRs. Which is good, but not what Apple had promised for 2009 and no substantial further progress than the MacBooks announced in October.

Let's just take a minute to remember why this matters. Toxic chemicals in electronics are a cause of serious environmental pollution, putting workers at risk of exposure during both the production and disposal processes. Greenpeace investigations into the e-waste yards of India, Ghana and China over the past few years have uncovered numerous examples of poorly protected workers being exposed to toxic pollution. Removing PVC and BFRs would make Apple computers safer and easier to recycle, as well as allowing much higher recycling rates to be achieved.

Green Electronics Guide

It's five years since we started asking all the leading electronics companies to make these changes, yet none have so far complied. We've been producing a regularly updated green electronics guide to make it easy to see who's doing what. During that time other manufacturers, notably Nokia and Sony Ericsson, have removed PVC and BFRs from their mobile phones, but Apple was the first computer manufacturer to commit to a phase out of these toxic chemicals. They are definitely getting closer to achieving this goal; the MacBook is almost there, and once Apple removes these chemicals completely there will be no excuse for other companies not to remove them too.

Of course, glitches have a habit of occurring in the best laid plans, but let's hope Steve has made a resolution to sort this out and will be back soon to make the announcement himself.

Hi Joss
As a long time activist and trainer with Greenpeace, I would have to say that people making comments on your apple blog entry have a point.
Your blog was negative when it could have been positive. You know as well as I do that the Green my Apple campaign was immensely successful, because it brought the apple enthusiasts along with the campaign.
Now we are seeing some results. So you can praise that first, and discuss the virtues of the changes, and then point out where they can go further.
This old negative tone is a dead end my man. So cop to it, apologise to your readers and move on. I for one am heading for that new apple laptop in an aluminum case. It's cool.

Blake

You state: "And yet the one new product announced so far at this year's Macworld, the Macbook Pro, turns out not to meet Mr Jobs' new greener specification"

When the press release explicitly states:

"The new 17-inch MacBook Pro joins the aluminum unibody MacBook family in setting new standards for environmentally friendly notebooks with every model achieving EPEAT Gold status.** Each MacBook unibody enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. The new MacBook family meets stringent Energy Star 4.0 requirements, contains no brominated flame retardants and uses internal cables and components that are PVC-free. The battery in the new 17-inch MacBook Pro provides additional environmental benefit because its extended lifespan means fewer depleted batteries resulting in less waste. Depleted batteries can be replaced for $179 which includes installation and disposal of your old battery in an environmentally responsible manner."

And yet you idiots give kudos to every other PC maker that only postures with vague statements but still continues to use those chemicals (and make REALLY crappy computers that are useless in 3 years or less).

Stop erroneously breaking Apple's balls to gain cheap publicity for your outdated terrorist organization. We all want a cleaner environment, but in your case, the ends don't justify the means.

The entire article is based on the premise stated in the second paragraph that:

"... the man himself - Apple CEO Steve Jobs - from as far back as May 2007 that toxic PVC and BFRs in Mac computers would be history by the end of 2008. "

Yet in the very next paragraph, an actual quote from Jobs is given that states:

"... we announced the unprecedented goal of eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from Apple products by the end of 2008."

The author thus contradicts his own statement about Jobs with the actual quote from Jobs. This is idiotic and wouldn't pass muster in a Journalism 101 class in high school.

A "goal" is a goal, not a promise. Apple only anounced that it intended to remove the toxins and that they thought they could do it before the year was out. Jobs further states (which the author also quotes but somehow fails to read.), that in October of this year they thought they were "on track to meet (that goal)."

How can this be misinterpreted? Are you all fools there? There simply was no "promise" here. The entire article is a flawed, biased, attack piece.

PS - How is it going to help your cause to ask people to sign in and "support" you, when you are running all these hateful pieces. The only reason I registered is to complain, as I am sure many others did.

If Greenpeace wants to be taken seriously, at least be honest and balanced.

jossc said:
"And yet the one new product announced so far at this year's Macworld, the Macbook Pro, turns out not to meet Mr Jobs' new greener specification; sure it has reduced amounts of the offending chemicals, but they've not been removed altogether."

Steve Jobs said:
"Last year we announced the unprecedented goal of eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from Apple products by the end of 2008. I’m proud to report that all of Apple's new product designs are on track to meet our 2008 year-end goal."

I looked it up (something maybe jossc should have done before his blog entry): The only laptop that Apple hasn't updated is the entry-level White MacBook. If memory serves, designed in 2005/2006, released May 2006 (that number comes before 2008 jossc.) I further looked at Apple's other Macs. While some of their Desktops/All-in-Ones still achieve Silver EPEAT ratings, they are older designs... the iMac and Mini. Designed/released well before Steve's announcement.

jossc, get your facts straight. If your going to demand responsibility, try being a good example. Sucker punches may win a round, but not the fight.

MHO, the wedge

Wow! Whatever credibility Greenpeace had has been severely diminished by your biased attacks on Apple that have little basis in reality. You're not hurting or affecting Apple, you're just ruining Greenpeace's own good name by not sticking to the facts.

You guys saved me a lot of money with this.

When you first started these releases about green tech, I took you seriously, and did a lot of research. Now I know that the company you are publicly shaming is the only computer company that actually takes the environment seriously.

And you are still shaming them.

So I stopped donating to you this year. Because it is clear you are all about cheap publicity and not the environment.

BTW, I used the money I usually give to you to buy a new Macbook. Got me most of the way there too. And it will last for years, but you will never see another penny from me. So after next year I will be ahead!

Keep up the good work!

I'm also a former supporter of Greenpeace.

And of a few other relatively similar organizations as well.

Whenever I find that an organization that I thought I could believe in was a hypocrite, I dropped them from my list.

FWIW, I'd be curious to know if 100% of the PCs that Greenpeace are currently using in their office are as environmentally clean as the 2009 Macbook 17" that this blog is criticizing...

...and if Greenpeace is not leading by example, then why not?

Afterall, based on the standard that Greenpeace is trying to put on Apple, fiscal realities ("Because that would cost us too much money right now") isn't an acceptable excuse: its hypocrisy pure and simple.

As I said...I don't provide financial support to hypocrites anymore.

-hh

Having read this latest chastisement, I was ready to join the 'F*CK GREENPEACE' raspberry chorus. But they were at least factual and relatively calm.

And yet, they did the usual thing that alarmist, too-far-to-the-left, loonies do, and that is to never-ever applaud progress. There tend to be hyper-judgemental people in this sad crowd and you can never live up to their expectations. They rarely get the clue about how lame we mere humans are about making progress in the world. They believe in NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT when trying to get things done. And sorry folks, but that has been proven, time after time after time, to be a great way to DETER things from getting done. No one likes to be slapped day in and day out. It engenders disrespect and disinterest in the 'Peon' toward the 'Master'.

What people DO respond to is Positive Reinforcement. Provide rewards. Cheer on success. Make progress an exciting and cheerful place to go. Will Greenpeace will ever get that clue? I can only hope so.

Meanwhile, the more Greenpeace do their finger wagging routine, the less they will be taken seriously. And yes, I love their causes and wish they would be taken seriously.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the storm of abuse that's come my way since my blog yesterday expressing disappointment that Apple hasn't yet quite lived up to its stated goal of removing toxic PVC and BFRs from its new products - Mac users are often obsessively loyal to the brand - and I've been one myself for 14 years (since the old Motorola days).

But being a fan doesn't destroy my critical faculties, I hope, or mean that I have to take everything Apple says at face value. If you look at the wording of the press release you quoted to me, you'll see interesting references to "BFR free internal components" and "PVC free internal cables". Why these particular forms of words?

Well, "BFR free internal components" means BFRs are still used in 'external' components (possibly the charger) - so its not BFR free. And "PVC free internal cables" means there's still PVC in the external cables (probably for the AC power cable).

This is not to say that they're not improving - they are - but they are not there yet. Greenpeace was led to believe by the company that they would be announcing that they'd achieved a PVC and BFR free MacBook at this year's Macworld (in line with the schedule set, not by us, but by Steve Jobs himself). If they had they'd eliminated all the PVC and BFRs you can bet that their PR guys would be shouting it from the roof tops of MacWorld - they didn't, because they haven't.

Nobody I know at Greenpeace hates Apple or wants to do them down. On the contrary, we want them to live up to the high expectations we have for them based on their own statements - after all, how unreasonable is it to expect that the company running the "greenest laptops" ads should stick to it's highest profile environmental promise?

Um, are a "stated goal" and a "promise" really as unrelated as you appear to think? If the government sets a target to keep inflation below 3%, say, and then fails, has it broken a promise because it didn't achieve it's stated goal? Not technically maybe, but you can bet that's not the way a lot of media commentators would see it.

In this case Apple themselves were very confident that they could achieve their "stated goal" and deliver a PVC and BFR free MacBook (and they got very close, it appears that only the peripherals - power cord, battery charger - still contain these toxic materials). And what I neglected to mention in the blog was that they led Greenpeace to believe that that's what would be announced at Macworld, but at the last moment were unable to do so (in fact I'd already written an initial version praising Apple for it's achievement when the bad news came in).

Hopefully though, these last pieces of the jigsaw will be sorted out soon and Apple will be able to promote their new product range as being as genuinely environmentally friendly as we'd all like it to be.

terrible, the destruction of a village and its community.
Travelling towards london on the m4 ther are signs near slough and langley warning motorists of a LOW EMISSION ZONE, am i missing something here.
Yours, CONFUSED.

People should still realise that many older Apple products pre-May 07 are full of toxic materials, Steve Jobs et al only seemed to care when it hit their (already bulging capitalist) pockets as it would spoil the commercial image they have developed.

The company have ripped off consumers for years, especially more now since they started using generic PC parts in their computers a couple of years back. They sell computers that cost a massive amount less to produce than they are priced, and use artists to make them look appealing (although if you look into their computers and support they are shafting consumers far more than any other PC manufacturer).

That aside, they make the geek in anyone happy with their pretty interfaces and design. Personally I prefer to save 50% on products and opt for a less pretty but functional system, but quite a few of the programmers and designers love their Macs like it was a partner! Personally I enjoy spending the extra cash on things I find more important that a designer PC or hand-held computer (that can sometimes act as a phone ;)

Hi Joss As a long time activist and trainer with Greenpeace, I would have to say that people making comments on your apple blog entry have a point. Your blog was negative when it could have been positive. You know as well as I do that the Green my Apple campaign was immensely successful, because it brought the apple enthusiasts along with the campaign. Now we are seeing some results. So you can praise that first, and discuss the virtues of the changes, and then point out where they can go further. This old negative tone is a dead end my man. So cop to it, apologise to your readers and move on. I for one am heading for that new apple laptop in an aluminum case. It's cool. Blake

You state: "And yet the one new product announced so far at this year's Macworld, the Macbook Pro, turns out not to meet Mr Jobs' new greener specification" When the press release explicitly states: "The new 17-inch MacBook Pro joins the aluminum unibody MacBook family in setting new standards for environmentally friendly notebooks with every model achieving EPEAT Gold status.** Each MacBook unibody enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. The new MacBook family meets stringent Energy Star 4.0 requirements, contains no brominated flame retardants and uses internal cables and components that are PVC-free. The battery in the new 17-inch MacBook Pro provides additional environmental benefit because its extended lifespan means fewer depleted batteries resulting in less waste. Depleted batteries can be replaced for $179 which includes installation and disposal of your old battery in an environmentally responsible manner." And yet you idiots give kudos to every other PC maker that only postures with vague statements but still continues to use those chemicals (and make REALLY crappy computers that are useless in 3 years or less). Stop erroneously breaking Apple's balls to gain cheap publicity for your outdated terrorist organization. We all want a cleaner environment, but in your case, the ends don't justify the means.

The entire article is based on the premise stated in the second paragraph that: "... the man himself - Apple CEO Steve Jobs - from as far back as May 2007 that toxic PVC and BFRs in Mac computers would be history by the end of 2008. " Yet in the very next paragraph, an actual quote from Jobs is given that states: "... we announced the unprecedented goal of eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from Apple products by the end of 2008." The author thus contradicts his own statement about Jobs with the actual quote from Jobs. This is idiotic and wouldn't pass muster in a Journalism 101 class in high school. A "goal" is a goal, not a promise. Apple only anounced that it intended to remove the toxins and that they thought they could do it before the year was out. Jobs further states (which the author also quotes but somehow fails to read.), that in October of this year they thought they were "on track to meet (that goal)." How can this be misinterpreted? Are you all fools there? There simply was no "promise" here. The entire article is a flawed, biased, attack piece. PS - How is it going to help your cause to ask people to sign in and "support" you, when you are running all these hateful pieces. The only reason I registered is to complain, as I am sure many others did.

If Greenpeace wants to be taken seriously, at least be honest and balanced. jossc said: "And yet the one new product announced so far at this year's Macworld, the Macbook Pro, turns out not to meet Mr Jobs' new greener specification; sure it has reduced amounts of the offending chemicals, but they've not been removed altogether." Steve Jobs said: "Last year we announced the unprecedented goal of eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from Apple products by the end of 2008. I’m proud to report that all of Apple's new product designs are on track to meet our 2008 year-end goal." I looked it up (something maybe jossc should have done before his blog entry): The only laptop that Apple hasn't updated is the entry-level White MacBook. If memory serves, designed in 2005/2006, released May 2006 (that number comes before 2008 jossc.) I further looked at Apple's other Macs. While some of their Desktops/All-in-Ones still achieve Silver EPEAT ratings, they are older designs... the iMac and Mini. Designed/released well before Steve's announcement. jossc, get your facts straight. If your going to demand responsibility, try being a good example. Sucker punches may win a round, but not the fight. MHO, the wedge

Wow! Whatever credibility Greenpeace had has been severely diminished by your biased attacks on Apple that have little basis in reality. You're not hurting or affecting Apple, you're just ruining Greenpeace's own good name by not sticking to the facts.

You guys saved me a lot of money with this. When you first started these releases about green tech, I took you seriously, and did a lot of research. Now I know that the company you are publicly shaming is the only computer company that actually takes the environment seriously. And you are still shaming them. So I stopped donating to you this year. Because it is clear you are all about cheap publicity and not the environment. BTW, I used the money I usually give to you to buy a new Macbook. Got me most of the way there too. And it will last for years, but you will never see another penny from me. So after next year I will be ahead! Keep up the good work!

I'm also a former supporter of Greenpeace. And of a few other relatively similar organizations as well. Whenever I find that an organization that I thought I could believe in was a hypocrite, I dropped them from my list. FWIW, I'd be curious to know if 100% of the PCs that Greenpeace are currently using in their office are as environmentally clean as the 2009 Macbook 17" that this blog is criticizing... ...and if Greenpeace is not leading by example, then why not? Afterall, based on the standard that Greenpeace is trying to put on Apple, fiscal realities ("Because that would cost us too much money right now") isn't an acceptable excuse: its hypocrisy pure and simple. As I said...I don't provide financial support to hypocrites anymore. -hh

Having read this latest chastisement, I was ready to join the 'F*CK GREENPEACE' raspberry chorus. But they were at least factual and relatively calm. And yet, they did the usual thing that alarmist, too-far-to-the-left, loonies do, and that is to never-ever applaud progress. There tend to be hyper-judgemental people in this sad crowd and you can never live up to their expectations. They rarely get the clue about how lame we mere humans are about making progress in the world. They believe in NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT when trying to get things done. And sorry folks, but that has been proven, time after time after time, to be a great way to DETER things from getting done. No one likes to be slapped day in and day out. It engenders disrespect and disinterest in the 'Peon' toward the 'Master'. What people DO respond to is Positive Reinforcement. Provide rewards. Cheer on success. Make progress an exciting and cheerful place to go. Will Greenpeace will ever get that clue? I can only hope so. Meanwhile, the more Greenpeace do their finger wagging routine, the less they will be taken seriously. And yes, I love their causes and wish they would be taken seriously.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the storm of abuse that's come my way since my blog yesterday expressing disappointment that Apple hasn't yet quite lived up to its stated goal of removing toxic PVC and BFRs from its new products - Mac users are often obsessively loyal to the brand - and I've been one myself for 14 years (since the old Motorola days). But being a fan doesn't destroy my critical faculties, I hope, or mean that I have to take everything Apple says at face value. If you look at the wording of the press release you quoted to me, you'll see interesting references to "BFR free internal components" and "PVC free internal cables". Why these particular forms of words? Well, "BFR free internal components" means BFRs are still used in 'external' components (possibly the charger) - so its not BFR free. And "PVC free internal cables" means there's still PVC in the external cables (probably for the AC power cable). This is not to say that they're not improving - they are - but they are not there yet. Greenpeace was led to believe by the company that they would be announcing that they'd achieved a PVC and BFR free MacBook at this year's Macworld (in line with the schedule set, not by us, but by Steve Jobs himself). If they had they'd eliminated all the PVC and BFRs you can bet that their PR guys would be shouting it from the roof tops of MacWorld - they didn't, because they haven't. Nobody I know at Greenpeace hates Apple or wants to do them down. On the contrary, we want them to live up to the high expectations we have for them based on their own statements - after all, how unreasonable is it to expect that the company running the "greenest laptops" ads should stick to it's highest profile environmental promise?

Um, are a "stated goal" and a "promise" really as unrelated as you appear to think? If the government sets a target to keep inflation below 3%, say, and then fails, has it broken a promise because it didn't achieve it's stated goal? Not technically maybe, but you can bet that's not the way a lot of media commentators would see it. In this case Apple themselves were very confident that they could achieve their "stated goal" and deliver a PVC and BFR free MacBook (and they got very close, it appears that only the peripherals - power cord, battery charger - still contain these toxic materials). And what I neglected to mention in the blog was that they led Greenpeace to believe that that's what would be announced at Macworld, but at the last moment were unable to do so (in fact I'd already written an initial version praising Apple for it's achievement when the bad news came in). Hopefully though, these last pieces of the jigsaw will be sorted out soon and Apple will be able to promote their new product range as being as genuinely environmentally friendly as we'd all like it to be.

terrible, the destruction of a village and its community. Travelling towards london on the m4 ther are signs near slough and langley warning motorists of a LOW EMISSION ZONE, am i missing something here. Yours, CONFUSED.

People should still realise that many older Apple products pre-May 07 are full of toxic materials, Steve Jobs et al only seemed to care when it hit their (already bulging capitalist) pockets as it would spoil the commercial image they have developed. The company have ripped off consumers for years, especially more now since they started using generic PC parts in their computers a couple of years back. They sell computers that cost a massive amount less to produce than they are priced, and use artists to make them look appealing (although if you look into their computers and support they are shafting consumers far more than any other PC manufacturer). That aside, they make the geek in anyone happy with their pretty interfaces and design. Personally I prefer to save 50% on products and opt for a less pretty but functional system, but quite a few of the programmers and designers love their Macs like it was a partner! Personally I enjoy spending the extra cash on things I find more important that a designer PC or hand-held computer (that can sometimes act as a phone ;)

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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