Greenpeace, iFixit Criticize EPEAT For Verifying Ultra-Thin Notebooks

EPEAT, the registry program for greener electronics, announced on October 12 that five ultra-thin notebooks obtained gold ratings. Manufactured by Apple, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba, the notebooks “met the requirements of the criteria reviewed,” EPEAT said in a statement. The findings, the statement assured, are a result of a “lengthy review of a number of specific criteria.” However, Greenpeace, criticized EPEAT for giving gold ratings to the ultra-thin notebooks.

Greenpeace IT analyst, Casey Harrell, criticizes EPEAT, stating that including “computers with difficult-to-replace batteries in its green electronics registry will result in less recycling and more e-waste.” iFixit levels the same criticism at EPEAT for verifying the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. In a blog post, iFixit called Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro the “least repairable, least recyclable computer” encountered in over a decade.

When iFixit experts took apart the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, they found “it was glued together and completely non-upgradeable.” Specifically, they found the RAM soldered in, the battery secured to the case with “impressively strong glue,” and the case held together with proprietary screws. iFix called the MacBook Pro “not repairable, it’s not upgradeable, and it’s not easy to disassemble for recycling.”

iFixit has strong language for the verification of the MacBook Pro, calling it a “clear case of greenwashing.” The decision to give it gold verification “demonstrates that the EPEAT standard has been watered down to an alarming degree.” iFixit also levels criticism at the EPA for “tackling the problem [of verifying greener electronics] indirectly” instead of pushing for legislation that requires manufacturers to “produce environmentally friendly products.”

EPEAT began testing the five notebooks back in July. At the time, Apple said it wanted to withdraw its products from the program, but days later walked back on that decision. Harrell accuses Apple of wanting to withdraw from EPEAT because the new MacBook Pro “would likely not qualify for the registry.” He also accused EPEAT of having “reinterpreted its rules to include the MacBook Pro and ultrabooks.”`

“Is it a coincidence?” Harrel asked. “It’s unclear why EPEAT caved in, but the impact is that EPEAT has confused consumers and businesses who want to buy green electronics that can be repaired and will last a long time, and sets a dangerous trend for the burgeoning market of ultrabooks.”

“EPEAT is committed to foster greener electronics and to give purchasers the tools to evaluate green claims,” said EPEAT CEO, Robert Frisbee, in a statement. Frisbee claimed that the program has “rigorous environmental assessment processes that includes purchasers, environmental advocates, government, manufacturer, recycler and academic participants.”

If the EPEAT verification process is so rigorous, then why are Greenpeace and iFixit criticizing the program’s latest decision? Perhaps there IS something wrong with the program for giving gold ratings to ultra-thin notebooks. After all, ultra-thin notebooks are harder to take apart, and as ZDNET points out, that could “discourage people from repairing them or upgrading them over time.” ZDNET also points out that one of the criteria EPEAT uses to rate a product is how easily it can be repaired or recycled.

What do you think?

Photo: Flickr user, bfishadow

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

2 responses

  1. EPEAT’s crediblty and success depend on the solidity, veracity and transparency of our careful verification efforts.The investigations assess products against the specific requirements of the underlying, stakeholder-developed public standards. (The IEEE 1680.1 PC/Display standard is available at – search for IEEE 1680.1).

    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. In the most recent verification a test lab disassembled the products to assess their ease of disassembly for recycling and found that they met the standard’s requirements.
    Kyle and Greenpeace support strengthening the standard’s criteria around repair and refurbishment – we strongly encourage them to join us in the public stakeholder process (already underway) that will update the PC/Display standard, to integrate their perspective into that process.

    1. Call me naive, but what manufacturer wants you to repair or enhance your laptop? They maximise productivity by having you buy a whole new machine every two or three years. And making it hard to disassemble is likely a combination of both cheapness and strength, and maybe making reverse engineering harder.
      Jumping in or out of these schemes sounds like trying to manage brand reputation in the web 2 era.

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