Craving a greener Apple

Environmental activists push Apple to make greener gadgets.

iPod, color green
iPod, color green CNET Networks

During his Macworld keynote speech, Steve Jobs played a congratulatory voice message from friend Al Gore on the droolworthy new iPhone, then used that device to locate the DVD of An Inconvenient Truth at the top of Amazon's bestseller list.

Outside the convention center's doors, however, Greenpeace activists handed out flyers painting Apple as less than hip to ecological problems, urging the company to remove toxicants from its products and set up free hardware recycling. Several blocks away, members of the environmental group also projected pictures of Asian electronics waste scrap yards onto a wall of the downtown San Francisco Apple store. Discarded electronics are the fastest-growing portion of the global waste stream. Shiploads of the First World's e-waste routinely reach developing regions of Asia and Africa, where people take apart the machines by hand to sell valuable metals, but endanger their health and the environment in the process.

Greenpeace green iPod
A greener, imaginary iPod Greenpeace

Pushing its Green My Apple campaign, Greenpeace created a spoof video of Jobs' keynote, in which the imitation CEO announces an eco-friendly MP3 player: "Green iPod contains no PVC, no brominated fire retardants, no lead or mercury. It's powered by solar panels and the kinetic energy of your body when you move around. It's not only recycled, it's recyclable, and it won't poison any kids in China or India anymore."

Last month, Greenpeace's Green Electronics Guide ranked Apple dead last among computer and mobile device manufacturers. Apple has neither phased out toxic flame retardants and PVC nor set up free hardware recycling programs, such as the one provided by Dell, according to Greenpeace. Apple says it complies with European Union rules that went into effect last year forcing the makers of consumer electronics to reduce toxic metals and fireproofing chemicals in their products. Apple pulled some noncompliant products, including iSights, eMacs, and iPod Shuffle battery packs, from the European market last summer.

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