your new christmas laptop – did you recycle? If it’s an Apple, you will next time.


What do you do with your instantly obsolete technology? How many of us think about that when we enter and are instantly seduced by the Apple store? What does Apple do about it? Well in the US they have a recycling program. They will give you a giftcard to the value of your old goods or charge $30 for straight recycle. Fantastic, I’d love to know how the economics of that worked. In Australia they simply offer to recycle free so long as you make another purchase.

Apple says it runs recycling programs in “95 percent of the countries where our products are sold, diverting more than 130.2 million pounds (287,042 tonnes) of equipment from landfills since 1994. Our original goal for 2010 was to achieve a worldwide recycling rate of 50 percent”. Their graph supporting these numbers looks good:

apple ewaste recycling

It also publishes a lot of information about its green credentials….explaining how it applies sustainable approaches to its facilities, materials, products as well as recycling. It has also published a statement regarding the removal of toxics from its products. I like so many others love apple – I admit it. But questions do remain….about what happens to Apple’s ewaste.

Courtesy greenpeace

As Jim Puckett, the founder of the Basel Action Network (BAN) recycling watchdog group puts it, “ the most benign part of a product’s lifecycle is when it’s sitting on your desk. That happens in rich countries. The ugly parts of the lifecycle, the dirtier parts, the production and the waste, happen in developing countries.”

Apple says it doesn’t ship e-waste overseas. Its policy reads, “No waste from Apple’s U.S. recycling program is shipped outside North America. All recovered materials are processed domestically, with the exception of some commodity materials that can be recycled for future use.”

But they have been questioned about the exception “commodity materials”. BAN is trying to pressure Apple and other tech companies into explicitly promising not to export hazardous e-waste to developing countries. Specifically, BAN wants these companies to sign its Manufacturer’s Commitment, a straightforward pledge not to export hazardous e-waste to developing nations, either directly or through third-party recyclers. So far, of the major tech companies BAN is targeting, only Sony had signed the Commitment; Apple, Dell and others, have not.

Apple says it audits its “recycling partners” closely and that it does not export hazardous tech trash. They aren’t saying who these “recycling partners” are. “Most companies have not been very straightforward about who’s in their recycling chain, and what they actually do with the material,” says Sheila Davis, the executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), which has been tracking the electronics industry since 1982.

Bottom line is that it’s hard to independantly assess Apple’s e-waste operation. “If we knew which recyclers they use, if they could tell us that, then we could find out where the (e-waste) is going.”says BAN’s Puckett.

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One Response to “your new christmas laptop – did you recycle? If it’s an Apple, you will next time.”

  1. […] including Dell and Apple have recycling programs (although often not in Australia!), but I’ve blogged about the challenges of getting independent and complete assessments of the real impact of such […]

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