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Apple reverses decision, returns to EPEAT rating system

Apple has reversed course and said it will return eligible products to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) rating system.

"We've recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT," Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, said in a note on Apple's website.

EPEAT awards products with "gold," "silver," or "bronze" classification based on how well they meet a variety of environmental-themed criteria including recyclability, energy consumption, and environmental impact. In a 29 June blog post, EPEAT said Apple had withdrawn its products from the registry and would no longer submit future products for testing.

EPEAT did not elaborate on why Apple pulled out, but reports suggested that Apple's design plans were not consistent with EPEAT guidelines. Robert Frisbee, EPEAT CEO, told the Wall Street Journal that the new MacBook Pro Retina display, for example, is difficult to disassemble, which could make EPEAT certification difficult.

In his note, Apple's Mansfield also did not discuss the reasoning behind Apple's initial decision to drop EPEAT, but he did tout Apple's green accomplishments.

"Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry," he wrote. "In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT."

Mansfield called on regulators to upgrade the IEEE 1680.1 standard, on which the EPEAT rating system is based, to include environmental achievements at which Apple already excels. That includes the elimination from products of toxins such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), comprehensive reports on greenhouse gas emissions, and swapping out plastics for more recyclable options.

"Perhaps most importantly, we make the most energy-efficient computers in the world and our entire product line exceeds the stringent ENERGY STAR 5.2 government standard," Mansfield wrote. "No one else in our industry can make that claim."

According to Mansfield, Apple's relationship with EPEAT "has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve."

In a statement on the EPEAT website, Frisbee said "we look forward to Apple's strong and creative thoughts on ongoing standards development."

"Our relationship with Apple is based on our natural alignment – as Apple drives innovation in product design, EPEAT drives innovation in standards design," he continued.

A challenge for EPEAT, Frisbee said, is to apply standards "that are fixed at a point in time" with products that are constantly evolving. Discussions about this point "led us to the path to our strengthened relationship with Apple," he said.

In the wake of Apple dropping EPEAT, there were reports that the city of San Francisco was dropping all Apple products. In a statement, however, the city said this week that there was no ban or boycott in place, and none was being considered.

Melanie Nutter, director of the city's Department of Environment, said today that the agency was pleased with Apple's decision.

"Apple's continued participation in the EPEAT program is consistent with their long standing commitment to environmental stewardship," Nutter said. "Independent standards, eco-labels, and registries like EPEAT are critical tools for verifying the environmental integrity of products for consumers."

Earlier this week, Greenpeace said Apple could set new precedents in coal-free cloud computing but found that the company is still "mostly talk and not enough walk."

In a Friday afternoon statement, Casey Harrell, an IT analyst for Greenpeace International, applauded Google's EPEAT decision. "A large and growing number Apple customers have challenged the company to be an environmental leader, whether that be by rejoining EPEAT, eliminating toxic chemicals from its products, or powering its iCloud with renewable energy," Harrell said.