Why EPEAT approved the MacBook Pro despite recycling concerns

Everything Apple does makes headlines.

That statement, of course, is about as unsurprising as can be. The once-scrappy underdog from Cupertino, Calif. -- now the country's most valuable company, ever -- has long made tidal-sized waves with its innovative products, its visionary founder and the strength of its reality distortion field.

Love it or hate it, Apple inspires strong feelings.

The past three months have shown in new ways how those feelings apply to Apple's sustainability efforts. In brief: In July Apple abruptly abandoned EPEAT. Uproar ensued. Apple abruptly reversed course. Sustainability-minded folks crowed.

Then, Apple released new hardware, including a MacBook Pro that included glued-in batteries, not-upgradeable RAM and disk drives, and a "completely fused" display, according to a teardown from iFixit, which earned Apple the lowest possible score for repairability.

More uproar ensued. EPEAT investigated, determining that the MacBook Pro and four other devices from Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba met the EPEAT standard. Critics roared.

The story has made the rounds of several news cycles, generally traveling along the lines of "EPEAT caved to Apple on MacBook Pro" -- led by a Wired op-ed by iFixit's CEO in the wake of EPEAT's announcement and iFixit's damning review of the new MacBook Pro.

I will admit to being skeptical when the news came out about the MacBook Pro staying in the EPEAT registry: I'd read the iFixit teardown with concern, and wondered if any organization could withstand the full force of the reality distortion field. To get a look behind the scenes of the dustup, I spoke at length last week with EPEAT's director of communications, Sarah O'Brien.

Photo of apple with recycling symbol on top provided by Tsekhmister via Shutterstock

Next page: Not much leeway in interpreting standards, EPEAT says