updated 06:24 pm EDT, Sun October 14, 2012
Investigation of 'ultrabooks' clears five models
The US government environmental-friendliness assessment tool EPEAT, in part created by Apple, environmental groups and federal agencies, has cleared five "ultrabooks" or super-thin notebooks as conforming to "green" standards, including the current version of the MacBook Air. Apple had famously pulled out of the registry with the release of the Retina MacBook Pro, possibly concerned with losing the coveted "Gold" ranking for the model, which uses more glue and other techniques deemed less easily recyclable than in the past.
There was also some speculation that Apple had been pushing for updating and revision of the group's environmental standards, but had not gotten much cooperation in the effort, prompting the pullout. After a media backlash and the threat of losing some government sales because of the lack of EPEAT certification, former Apple Senior VP of Hardware Bob Mansfield admitted the company had made a mistake by withdrawing from the standards group and said it would rejoin. In the end, Apple got both a "gold" ranking on the Retina MBP and most of the improvements and reforms in the criteria it was after shortly after rejoining.
In all, five models (and their variants) of "ultrabook" portable computers were tested from manufacturers including Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba and Apple. All met the requirements, after being disassembled and tested with an independent lab.
Part of the EPEAT testing required that the notebooks be able to be totally disassembled using common industry tools in under 20 minutes, and that the battery be able to be removed in less than two minutes, as well as looking at what materials were used and how recyclable the materials are. The five ultrabooks were chosen because of the probability that they could have complex environmental issues, but that turned out not to be the case.
The latest MacBook Air avoids the glued-in battery and bonded-to-glass display that makes the MacBook Pro with Retina display more of a recycling challenge. While all the parts of the MBP can be recycled, the sealed, non-replaceable battery and bonded display makes it more time-consuming and difficult, though some have pointed out that these moves also reduce the chance that the machine will need the parts replaced within its useful lifetime.
The MacBook Air by contrast does not have those issues, but is largely sold as non-upgradeable in terms of RAM or drive capacity, though at least one vendor (Other World Computing) offers a replacement SSD that is compatible with the latest MBAs.