A Greener Apple Webby Award Guide to Greener electronics Apple fans Challenge

iTox + 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?

Right now, poison Apples full of chemicals (like toxic flame retardants, and polyvinyl chloride) are being sold worldwide. When they're tossed, they usually end up at the fingertips of children in China, India and other developing-world countries. They dismantle them for parts, and are exposed to a dangerous toxic cocktail that threatens their health and the environment.

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

PVC - Poision PlasticsTake 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

recycleYou'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 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.

Really PVC free?

Sure, 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.

You can't recycle toxic waste

If Apple doesn't drop the toxics from its products, it doesn't matter how good a recycling program they have. Because toxics make recycling more hazardous. And eventually, the toxic chemicals will be released. Dropping toxics makes reuse and recycling of products simplier, safer and cheaper.

Apple finally came around to a limited recycling program in the US, but they can do better. We want them to offer a comprehensive take-back and recycling program worldwide. Not just in the US or where Apple is legally compelled to.

It's time for Apple to use clean ingredients in all of its products, and to provide a free take-back program to reuse and recycle its products wherever they are sold. That means:

  • Remove the worst toxic chemicals from all their products and production lines.
  • Offer and promote free "take-back" for all their products everywhere they are sold.

We're not asking for just "good enough." We want Apple to do that "amaze us" thing that Steve does at MacWorld: go beyond the minimum and make Apple a green leader.

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.

About our campaign

We love Apple. Apple knows more about "clean" design than anybody, right? So why do Macs, iPods, iBooks and the rest of their product range contain hazardous substances that other companies have agreed to abandon? A cutting edge company shouldn't be cutting lives short by exposing children in China and India to dangerous chemicals. That's why we Apple fans need to demand a new, cool product: a greener Apple.

Innovative or Conventional?

Of course Apple isn't the only company that needs to change its ways. But in a recent Greenpeace scorecard, Apple ranked lower than HP, Dell, Nokia, and Sony. For an industry innovator, Apple is falling off the cart while the leaders of the industry are speeding ahead.

Apple is lagging behind both Dell and HP, who have both promised to start removing toxic chemicals from their products. And HP and Dell both have much better global "take back" programs than Apple.

Start a revolution on your desktop

Enough talk - let's get going. Ready to take a bite of Green Apple? Join thousands of other cool Green Apple activists and take action today.