Jobs touts Apple’s environmental progress, Greenpeace gives thumbs up

Greenpeace International today praised Apple Inc. for stepping up efforts to reduce toxic materials in its computers and consumer electronic devices.

“While Apple and other top electronic companies still face many challenges on the road to truly green electronics, it can only be a good thing to see a top CEO and high profile a public figure as Steve Jobs devoting significant time to environmental concerns at Apple,” the environmental group said in a statement today.

Greenpeace was reacting to an environmental progress report Apple published Thursday. Signed by Jobs, the update gave an overview of Apple’s promise last year to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from all Apple products by the end of 2008, and to remove mercury and arsenic from its displays.

“I’m proud to report that all of Apple’s new product designs are on track to meet our 2008 year-end goal,” Jobs wrote.

In May 2007, Jobs blasted environmentalists, including Greenpeace, saying the company leads rivals such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., then issued a manifesto, dubbed “A Greener Apple” (download PDF) that spelled out the company’s plans.

Jobs also announced that Apple had exceeded its 2007 goal of recycling 13% of the materials in the products it sold seven years before, and would meet its 2010 goal of 25% this year.

Apple currently offers free recycling for its iPods and iPhones, and free recycling for old computers and displays when customers purchase qualifying Macs or Apple displays.

He also touted new research the company has done on its total carbon footprint, and pointed customers to a series of documents that for the first time spelled out the energy efficiency, material composition, packaging and greenhouse gas emissions for each product line.

According to those documents, the just-released aluminum-clad MacBook (download PDF) boasts an energy efficiency between 86.6% and 87.5%, while the manufacturing, transportation and use of the laptop during its lifespan emits 1,014 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace, however, saw the elimination of toxic materials as the big story. “This will be a first for a computer maker and lays down the challenge to competitors such as HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer and Toshiba,” the group said. “If Apple has solved the challenges involved, there’s no excuse for any of these companies not to follow Apple’s lead on toxic chemicals elimination now and not wait until the end of 2009.”

All those companies have pledged to remove PVC and BFRs from their products by the end of next year.

According to research firm Gartner Inc., Apple accounted for nearly 10% of all personal computers sold in the U.S. last quarter; it doesn’t show in the top five global sellers, however.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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