Thursday, September 11, 2008

Greenpeace lauds less toxic iPods

An article by Computerworld describes how Apple's new iPods use fewer toxic chemicals, and have garnered positive feedback from Greenpeace.

In a posting to the Greenpeace Web site blog on Wednesday, Greenpeace blogger "tomD" gave Apple credit for making the new iPod nano using less toxic manufacturing processes, and encouraged the company to make good on a promise to remove toxic chemicals from computers, as well.

On Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the fourth-generation iPod nano during a special press event in San Francisco. He described the new nano models as "the cleanest, toxic-free iPods we've ever built."

Apple says the new iPod nano is made using arsenic-free glass, and is free of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), mercury and polyvinylchloride (PVC), and is made of more recyclable materials.

These changes are welcome by Greenpeace, the environmental group, which began a "Green My Apple" campaign to put public pressure on the company to improve its environmental record.

"While these iPods may rock what would really shake up the computer industry is if Apple sticks to its promise and becomes the first company to make personal computers free of toxic PVC and BFR's. That would be truly groundbreaking announcement," wrote tomD.

He explained that while it's relatively easy to make small electronics that don't produce large amounts of heat without such chemicals -- products like phones and iPods -- it requires much more clever engineering to avoid such uses in personal computers.

"Now what we'd really like for Christmas is to see Apple remove toxic chemicals from all its products, and announce a free, global recycling scheme. That would make a very tasty green Apple," tomD wrote.

Apple had long been resistant to feedback from Greenpeace. For example, if I remember right, Greenpeace had objected to the use of brominated flame retardants in plastic components. These contain bromine compounds, and make it harder for plastic to catch fire, which is of course safer.

However, when much electronics waste, or e-waste, is shipped to Africa and China for disposal. There, people strip out valuable metals like gold and copper in the microprocessors and wires, and burn the leftover plastic. If you throw plastic containing BFRs in a big fire, it will burn, and it will release bromine, which is toxic .

Apple's initiatives are laudable. However, we need to ask a deeper question: why are we accumulating so many material possessions in vain? I mean, not that I haven't accumulated my share of expensive but ultimately worthless crap, but it's not like we need all this.

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