"EPEAT's announcement today to include computers with difficult-to-replace batteries in its green electronics registry will result in less recycling and more e-waste," Greenpeace IT analyst Casey Harrell said.
EPEAT's investigation of ultrathin laptops, including Apple's MacBook Air, ruled that they conform to the EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) environmental standard.
One of the issues in question was EPEAT section 184.108.40.206, which requires that "the product is upgradeable with commonly available tools."
When Apple removed it's laptops from the EPEAT rating back in the summer it was thought to be because they no longer qualified for the rating due to the battery. Early attempts to disassemble MacBook Air laptops revealed the batteries were glued into space rather that mounted - something that would enable the company to save a little internal space - and that was thought to fall afoul of EPEAT standards.
However, EPEAT has now decided that being able to upgrade a laptop doesn't necessarily require access to the inside of the computer. "Products containing externally accessible ports such as a high performance serial bus or a USB are capable of being upgraded by adding a hard disk, DVD, floppy drive, memory and cards, and therefore conform to this criterion," EPEAT's product verification committee said in its clarification to the rule.
EPEAT performed disassembly tests on five ultrathin laptops and found that disassembly of the products was under 20 minutes in all cases. "Given their findings, the lab recommended that all products be found in conformance with EPEAT requirements," the organisation concluded.
Greenpeace is not happy with the labs findings. Harrell said: "Consumers will not risk violating their product warranty to change a battery using instructions they don't have with tools they don't own, and are sure to conclude that the entire process is too complicated and instead buy a new product."
"The result will be electronics with a shorter lifespan and more e-waste. Electronics need to be designed so that people can upgrade and repair them as easily as possible. If companies can't make products that can be easily fixed, they shouldn't be sold," writes PC World.
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