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Indecisive Apple to have laptops reassessed by EPEAT body

On the heels of Apple's recent flip-flop on pulling its products out of the EPEAT registry, EPEAT said this week that it is currently reassessing how to rate ultrathin laptops like the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air for a variety of environmental-themed criteria.

It has been speculated that Apple originally pulled out of EPEAT because its latest MacBook Pros would likely fail the body's certification process due to assembly techniques such as gluing the laptop's battery to its case that make the device's individual components difficult to recycle.

EPEAT chief executive Robert Frisbee intimated in a note currently appearing on EPEAT's home page that there could be changes in how ultrathins are rated under the guidelines. But he didn't make any promises—saying that at the end of the process some companies might choose to remove certain products from the EPEAT registry, which awards products with "gold," "silver," or "bronze" classification based on how well they meet recyclability, energy consumption, and environmental impact standards.

Apple ultimately rejoined EPEAT last week in the face of customer pressure, as well as a statement, later toned down, from San Francisco officials warning that the city would stop all purchasing of Apple products unless the company submitted its qualified products for EPEAT certification.

EPEAT was founded in 2005 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a consortium of manufacturers, including Apple, to rate electronic products for recyclability and energy efficiency. It is managed by the International Sustainability Development Foundation's Green Electronics Council.

Frisbee's note doesn't mention Apple by name. But it's not hard to read between the lines of his reference to "the invigorating discussions of the past few weeks" and see the company's high-profile pullout and return to EPEAT as at least hastening this new round of activity on ultrathins.

EPEAT says it is now actively gathering information about "construction and disassembly techniques for ultralight/ultrathin laptops" in an effort to figure out how such products fit into its ratings system. Frisbee said his agency is also reviewing "ambiguities in the 1680.1 standards language that have been raised as part of this process," a reference to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)-backed industry standards for PCs and PC displays upon which EPEAT ratings are based.