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Greenpeace Assault on Apple Unwarranted

Greenpeace Assault on Apple Unwarranted

by , 12:00 PM EDT, March 29th, 2007

Recently, Greenpeace has been singling out Apple as a culprit with respect to its manufacturing processes and praising Dell. In fact, the criticism comes not from scientific analysis but Apple's refusal to make public commitments based on demands from Greenpeace, according to Business Week on Thursday.

What this is all about is public statements. Dell has complied, caved in, and made public affirmations about their plans to eliminate certain chemicals from their production process -- by 2009. Apple has made no such public statement, but that doesn't mean they're not looking at better manufacturing methods.

The chemicals in question are PVC used in cabling and Brominated Flame Retardant (BFR) used in circuit boards. "As of now, neither Apple nor Dell—nor Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) for that matter—is selling a single PVC- or BFR-free computer," Arik Hesseldahl reported for Business Week.

What may be at play here is simple politics. In Mr. Hesseldahl's opinion, "The Greenpeace strategy, of course, is to imply that Apple, the crunchy California computer company that sprang from the ferment of the post-counterculture San Francisco, is just another corporate polluter. Meanwhile, Dell, the namesake company of meat-eating, Republican-backing Michael Dell, gets props for environmental responsibility? It's a political-cultural Bizarro world."

In fact, when real science is invoked, the drama goes away. The Environmental Protection Agency uses a set of criteria developed with the IEEE that specifies standards for electronics manufacturing, the EPA Assessment Tool. Based on that standard, Mr. Hesseldahl noted that "... Apple acquits itself well.... Apple's MacBook Pro came within two points of hitting "gold" status, scoring 19 out of 28 on the optional requirements. Dell's highest score was 15, on its Precision and Latitude notebooks."

Mr. Hesseldalhs advice was, if you've been thinking about buying a Mac and are concerned about the Greenpeace haranguing, don't be. Apple does as good a job with waste management in the production process as any other competitor.

The conclusion was blunt: "There's a right way and wrong way to respond to these concerns, and the wrong way would to be cave in to rhetorical bullying by a political action group that's well-known for creating drama where there is none."

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