iFixit's teardown king tears into EPEAT's Gold certification of Retina MacBook Pro
October 18, 2012
The Gold certification of Apple's Retina MacBook Pro by EPEAT has been labeled "a clear case of greenwashing" by ifixit's Kyle Wiens. Gold is the highest rating of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which is used by the federal government (among others) to inform more environmentally-friendly procurement. Wiens says the decision is evidence that the "EPEAT standard has been watered down to an alarming degree."
Central to Wiens' argument is the Retina MacBook Pro's lack of upgradability, which was widely reported shortly after the machine's introduction back in June, much as a result of Wien's own disassembly, or "teardown," for ifixit at the time. "We learned it was glued together and completely non-upgradeable," Wiens summarized in a blog post on Tuesday. "The RAM was soldered in, the SSD storage used a proprietary interface, the battery was secured to the case with impressively strong glue, and the case was held together using proprietary screws."
Such design decisions prevent Apple users from upgrading their machines in the event that parts fail or become obsolete. The objection is that such an approach artificially shortens the lifespan of the product, and results in additional unnecessary e-waste (with all the implications that carries for the environment). In an article for Wired at the time of the teardown, Wiens labeled the Retina Macbook Pro "least repairable laptop we've ever taken apart."
Though the EPEAT standard is focused more on recycling than repair, it does recognize upgradability as a factor in extending product life. However, Wiens argues that a weakening of the definition of upgrade to include external devices such as USB thumb drives renders the criteria all but meaningless. "Every single laptop on the market already meets this new, incredibly loose criteria."
Wiens also criticizes the standard's lack of definition of “safely and easily” with respect to its requirements for the disassembly of computers. And though manufacturers must provide EPEAT with disassembly instructions for registered devices, Wiens says that there is no requirement to make these instructions available to the public or recycling and repair facilities.
The latest criticism joins that of Greenpeace's IT campaigner Casey Harrell on Monday. "Apple wanted to change the EPEAT standards when it knew its MacBook Pro with Retina Display would likely not qualify for the registry in July of this year—now EPEAT has reinterpreted its rules to include the MacBook Pro and ultrabooks. Is it a coincidence?" he asked. Ultrabooks from Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba were also approved by EPEAT.