Apple is not green enough, says campaigner

Apple is not green enough, says campaigner

Summary: The Mac maker may be streets ahead when it comes to design, but its green credentials are backward, argues Greenpeace

TOPICS: Hardware

Increasing pressure on IT hardware companies to make manufacturing and end products greener is beginning to bite, according to environmental campaigner Greenpeace.

The group claims that most companies have demonstrated some commitment to more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes such as eliminating the use of toxic chemicals.

"We are witnessing a global shift towards greener PCs with Acer and Lenovo — two major producers of PCs — committing to eliminate the use of the most hazardous chemicals from their product range," said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International's toxics campaigner.

However, despite the progress made by some hardware makers — tracked by Greenpeace in its Guide to Greener Electronics — Apple continues to lag behind when it comes to environmental manufacturing, according to the pressure group.

"In sharp contrast, Apple is awarded the last position because the company has made absolutely no improvements to its policies or practices since the ranking was first released three months ago, although most of its competitors have improved environmental policies," said Kruszewska. "Despite being the world leader in innovation and design, Apple is losing the race by failing to keep up with the other companies."

Despite the Greenpeace ranking, Apple continues to defend its green credentials. Commenting on an earlier version of the ranking issued in August, the company said: "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 BFRs (brominated flame retardants). We have also completely eliminated CRT monitors, which contain lead, from our product line."

Nokia is the most progressive hardware maker according to Greenpeace, and continues to hold the top spot in the Greener Electronics ranking. But although the Finnish mobile handset maker earned praise for its chemicals policy and disposal of its products, it still has work to do when it comes to phasing out the use of PVC in its products.

The issue of green tech and e-waste was debated at a United Nations-sponsored event in Nairobi last week. Around 120 governments gathered in the Kenyan capital for week-long talks on how to reduce the use of toxic substances such as lead and mercury, which are commonly found in PCs and mobiles.

The UN estimates that up to 50 million tonnes of  "e-waste" is generated worldwide every year.

Speaking at the first day of the event, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that around 100,000 computers a month are entering the Nigerian port of Lagos alone.

"If these were good quality, secondhand pieces of equipment this would perhaps be a positive trade of importance for development," he said. "But local experts estimate that between a quarter to 75 percent of these items including old TVs, CPUs and phones are defunct — in other words e-waste; in other words long-distance dumping from developed country consumers and companies to an African rubbish tip or landfill." 

Steiner said that agreement on what constitutes waste compared to secondhand products was a major issue that had to be tackled to prevent developing nations from being used as a dumping ground for old technology from more mature economies. 

Tony Roberts, chief executive of UK IT refurbishment charity Computer Aid, which regularly sends shipments of re-conditioned PCs to Africa, agreed that a clear distinction needs to be made between dumping e-waste and donating first-class second-hand PCs.

"Computer Aid is 100 percent against dumping. We want to drive the e-waste cowboys out of business," he said. "We believe that only the highest-quality, professionally refurbished PCs should be going to developing countries."

Roberts added that Computer Aid only ships Pentium3 and Pentium4 PCs that have been professionally refurbished. Old Pentium 1 or Pentium 2 computers and any defective kit is recycled — entirely within the EC.

Note: the author of this article is involved in fundraising for Computer Aid and is taking part in a 400km cycle challenge in February 2007 to raise money to equip schools in Kenya with refurbished PCs.

Topic: Hardware

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • re: Apple is not green enough, says campaigner

    "In sharp contrast, Apple is awarded the last position because the company has made absolutely no improvements to its policies or practices since the ranking was first released three months ago..."

    Er, actually because they know they will garner more press coverage with this press release if Apple are the talking point.
  • Interesting comment...

    Thanks for your Talkback John - you're obviously a proponent of the "there's no such thing as bad publicity" school of marketing.

    Not sure Apple or other tech companies named and shamed by Greenpeace would agree with the theory though - most of them are pretty vigorous when it comes to accusations of environmental irresponsibility.
    Andrew Donoghue
  • re: Apple is not green enough, says campaigner

    "you're obviously a proponent of the "there's no such thing as bad publicity" school of marketing."

    No not really - more cynicism really - if it had been any other company it wouldn't grab any headlines. Greenpeace know that mentioning Apple will grab headlines and move it up the rankings on places like Google News etc.

    >>Most of them are pretty vigorous when it comes to accusations of environmental irresponsibility.

    Yes, but up until recently Apple machines have generally had a longer shelf life - most machines get cycled down through the family...
  • RE: Apple is not green enough, says campaigner

    I've just read a comment by someone on another web site relating to this subject Andrew could you pass comment on this?

    "Greenpeace approached Apple with a proposition that would have required Apple to pay, what amounted to a rather large bribe, to be listed as the greenest computer company on earth. Apple refused to pay up because it is against the law to give bribes. It looks like Dell ignored the law and showed them the money. Dell, the worst offender, leads the greenest list. Greenpeace has lost all creditability."