EPEAT: The MacBook Pro with Retina display got a gold because it passed the test

Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display may be the "the least repairable, least recyclable computer" iFixit has ever seen, but not only is it good enough to pass EPEAT testing, it's good enough to get the gold award.

The EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), a method for consumers to evaluate the effect of a product on the environment, hits back at criticisms that it "caved in to Apple" by awarding the MacBook Pro with Retina display a gold rating.

Kyle Wiens, cofounder and CEO of repair firm iFixit, said that EPEAT's decision to give Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display a gold rating despite it being, in Wiens' words, "the least repairable, least recyclable computer I have encountered in more than a decade of disassembling electronics" was a move that will " lead humanity down a perilous path ".

The gold rating is EPEAT's the highest possible environmental performance rating.

The EPEAT has hit back against the claims, pointing out that there was no caving in to Apple, and that the MacBook Pro with Retina display was given the gold rating because it passed the necessary criteria.

In an email, EPEAT's director of outreach and communications Sarah O’Brien pointed out that the disassembly criteria used in the testing or products  were for recycling or shredding, not for upgrade capability, so the inclusion of proprietary pentalobe screws -- screws which need a special tool to undo them -- makes no difference to the rating awarded a product.

Also, O’Brien makes it clear that the testing criteria used doesn’t prescribe or forbid specific construction methods such as fasteners versus adhesives. 

"The test lab went through the process and reported that the products were all easy to disassemble with commonly available tools," claims O’Brien.

Wiens also attacked EPEAT's decision to call any system featuring a USB port as "upgradable" because it can utilizes USB flash storage media. While this might not be what some of us might call an upgrade, it is in keeping with the criteria laid out by EPEAT, which is as follows:

–       Hard disk, digital versatile disc (DVD), floppy drive can be changed or extended [e.g., by a high performance serial bus (IEEE Std 1394™ [B4]) or Universal Serial Bus (USB)]

–       Memory and cards can be changed or extended [e.g., by a high performance serial bus (IEEE Std 1394 [B4]) or USB].

"That may or may not be an adequate measure of upgrade capability," wrote O’Brien, "but we have to verify to the specific requirements of the standard".

"When manufacturers’ products fail to pass verification by EPEAT they are ‘named and shamed’ in a public report. This is intended to ensure careful manufacturer support for all product declarations and to uphold the credibility of the registry. We have no incentive, nor any ability, to bend the rules for any of the 50+ manufacturers who participate in the EPEAT registry when we undertake verifications".

Image source: iFixit.