- Apple’s public relations efforts depict the tech giant as an environmentally-friendly corporation.
- Employing renewable energy, recycling programs, and closed-loop manufacturing (to avoid mining materials that can be recycled), Apple’s negative environmental impact is less than most other tech companies.
- Both Greenpeace and UK parliament members contend that Apple’s products are, by design, challenging to repair and destined to be obsolete.
- By making devices difficult to repair and quickly obsolete, consumers must purchase new tech products regularly.
- In the United States, most consumers replace their smartphone every two years.
UK MP’s Critical of Apple Product Design’s Environment Impact
Apple is well-known for environmental initiatives encouraging the use of renewable energy, recycling materials, and eliminating toxic substances from its products. Although Apple’s public relations team aggressively promotes the company’s environmental friendliness, critics have emerged.
Recently, the UK parliament’s environmental audit committee found that much of the nation’s electronic waste ends up in landfills. The committee found that if companies like Apple and Amazon helped recycle, repair, and collect e-waste generated by their products, it would save 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste from ending up in landfills.
Current UK laws allow tech corporations to shirk environmental responsibility for their products. About 40% of e-waste ends up overseas, however, which isn’t legal. Although Apple contends that their products are recycled, that isn’t always the case, and there’s little enforcement in the UK.
The PM’s specifically called out Apple on high repair costs on products that are not user-serviceable:
“Instead, the changes proposed for repair by Apple in particular can be so expensive it is more economical to replace the item completely.”
Greenpeace Gives Apple a D for Repairability
Members of the UK parliament are not the only ones critical of Apple’s lopsided environmentalism. Difficulty in repairing Apple products earned the Cupertino tech giant a disappointing D grade for “product life extension” from Greenpeace:
“Apple’s failure to design many of its products to enable its customers to easily repair and upgrade their devices risks undermining Apple’s leadership on climate change and a closed-loop economy, particularly as its design decisions set the direction for many companies in the sector. While Apple has made some concessions to customers by lowering the cost of some repairs, product design decisions for its smartphones, laptops and tablets have consistently made it more difficult for customers to repair their devices, replace their batteries, or upgrade the devices so that they continue to stay in use.”
Greenpeace gives Apple high marks for many other aspects of its environmental policy. The company is considered a leader in combatting pollution and climate change. Being a public corporation, however, profits are paramount. Apple’s need to sell devices seems to undermine its environmental stewardship.
Apple has gone so far as to block so-called “right to repair” legislation in the United States. The new laws would force manufacturers to create user-serviceable products.
As iPhone product development advances, the devices have become less repairable. According to iFixit, the iPhone 12 isn’t user-repairable at all, as it requires Apple configuration software for virtually any aspect of service:
“Apple’s internal training guides tell authorized technicians that, starting with the 12 and its variants, they will need to run Apple’s proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app to fully repair cameras and screens”
Only certified Apple repair shops can use the System Configuration app. This means users can no longer fix their own iPhone. Given the high price of repairing Apple devices and their rapid obsolescence, most consumers prefer to buy new devices instead of repairing them.
Lowering Repair Costs Would Benefit Environment
Making the iPhone more repairable would genuinely benefit the world. Not only would landfills be virtually absent of Apple devices, but consumers would save money, opting for inexpensive repairs instead of device replacement.
The ability to repair devices has a massive impact on the environment. Unfortunately, it also harms Apple’s earnings.
A burgeoning “right to repair” movement seeks to force manufacturers such as Apple to create user-serviceable devices. Apple’s momentum seems to be in the opposite direction, as the company lobbies against such laws and makes its devices more difficult to repair.