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Apple Lags On Electronic Waste

Greenpeace says the company has not improved its poor environmental record.

Greenpeace today updated its "Guide to Greener Electronics" and, three months after the report's initial release, Apple remains in last place. The environmental advocacy group says that while many consumer technology companies have taken steps to adopt more environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, Apple has made no progress.

"Despite being a leader in innovation and design, Apple has made absolutely no improvements to its policies or practices since the ranking was first released three months ago," said Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace USA's Toxics campaign, in a statement. "Apple's bad green policy is not 'a wonderful life' for workers in the scrap yards of the developing world, and we can't imagine that Steve Jobs would want to be the Mr. Potter of the high-tech industry this holiday season." (For those unfamiliar with Frank Capra's film, It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Potter is the film's wealthy villain.)

On a ten-point scale, top scoring companies are Nokia (7.3), Dell (7), and Fujitsu-Siemens (6), according to Greenpeace. Motorola (6) moved up to fourth place from second-to-last three months ago thanks to its "strong commitments" to improve its practices.

Greenpeace charges that Apple (2.3) "fails to embrace the precautionary principle, withholds its full list of regulated substances and provides no timelines for eliminating toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and no commitment to phasing out all uses of brominated flame retardants (BFRs)." It also gives Apple low marks for product take back and recycling, with the exception that it does report the amount of electronic waste it recycles.

A 2005 report by the Government Accounting Office estimates that 100 million computers, monitors, and television become obsolete every year. Such items may be thrown away, reused, or recycled. Failure to properly recycle those products results in the loss of potentially valuable resources, for example, gold, copper, and aluminum, and may lead to the dispersal of toxic materials, including lead.

Apple disputes Greenpeace's claims. "We disagree with Greenpeace's rating and the criteria they chose," said Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling. "Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many brominated flame retardants. We have also completely eliminated CRT monitors, which contain lead, from our product line. Apple desktops, notebooks and displays each score best-in-class in the new EPA ranking system EPEAT, which uses international standards set by IEEE."

Apple also takes back older model iPods at its Apple stores and offers a discount on the purchase of a new product.

[Updated, 7pm, Nov. 6. Last paragraph of original story, which said that Apple had not responded to a request for comment at posting time, replaced with comment from Apple spokesman Steve Dowling.]

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