Green Apple Policy to Recycle Old Apple IIs, Macs, and iPods

2005 – Environmentalists, rejoice! In celebration of Earth Day, Steve Jobs broke out his Birkenstocks, love beads, and hippie headband to announce the greening of Apple computer.

The Rumor Mill

Effective immediately, anyone can return any Apple product – even ones as old as Apple IIs – to any Apple retail store for recycling at no charge to the consumer.

We wish.

Earth lovers have been on Apple’s case for some time, complaining that Apple actually charges people who want to return their broken Macintosh computers and Apple monitors for recycling. Dell and HP have much more liberal recycling policies.

Because Apple doesn’t take back people’s junk for free, the earth huggers claim that all those old Macs and iPods are going into landfills, where heavy metals seep into the earth. After all, landfills are not lined, nor are toxins prevented from making their way into groundwater.

The Problem

There isn’t just one problem with this scenario. There are many.

As anyone who has owned more than a single Mac probably realizes, Macs don’t usually get tossed in landfills. Nor are they likely to be recycled. They work, and most Mac users either hold on to them (whether they continue to use them or not) or pass them along to someone who doesn’t yet have a computer or has a less capable one.

Why recycle when you can reuse?

Mac ClassicThen there are the complaints about the cost of computing in economically challenged regions of the world. An old Mac Classic may seem antiquated by American standards, but there are parts of the world where it might be more computing power than the village has ever seen.

Why recycle when you can reuse?

The iMacFurther, we keep our computers longer. Rather than tossing out our WallStreet laptops or Bondi iMacs, we use them as long as practical – and sometimes beyond that. With a memory upgrade, a larger hard drive, maybe a new battery for the laptop, those Macs will continue to function reliably for years.

Why recycle when you’re still using it?

Then there’s the iPod. Environmentalists consider them disposable technology for some odd reason. I guess they’ve never heard that you can replace the battery when it dies.

I don’t know of anyone who has tossed their old iPod in the trash, let alone sent it in for recycling. As long as the hardware keeps working, we’ll keep using our iPods. And some people even take broken iPods and rebuild them around 2.5″ laptop or 3.5″ desktop drives.

Why recycle when you can buy a new battery?

The Big Problem

When did it become the responsibility of business to dispose of products they’ve sold – let alone at no cost to the person who owns the equipment?

Will Ford take back your Taurus for recycling? Do you send burnt out Christmas tree lights to the manufacturer? Does the newspaper carrier pick up yesterday’s press?

And let’s not even get into Charmin and Kleenex….

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t have recycling programs. If they want to be good stewards of God’s green earth, that’s a good thing. If they want to do it for free, that’s nice. And if they want to recoup their costs – well, that’s what businesses do. They make money.

Make It Work

Apple should take the bull by the horns and go above and beyond what the environmentalists want. They should be willing to take back any Apple products, working or not.

They should have a policy of donating working equipment to agencies that can repair or refurbish it for use in impoverished areas, whether at home or around the world.

They should make sure that iPod owners know that they can simply replace a dead battery – they don’t have to throw out their iPods when the battery stops holding a decent charge. (And they should be able to return the old battery to Apple to keep it out of the neighborhood landfill.)

But Apple shouldn’t be required to do any of this for free. Once you buy a product, you own it, so¬†disposing of it is your responsibility.

Apple needs to provide incentives so we’ll become more green. How about a postage paid return mailer for your iPod’s battery when you buy a new one? (Lots of companies already do that with toner cartridges and ink cartridges.)

Or how about taking in one old Apple computer system with any new Macintosh purchase at the Apple Store. No $30 recycling fee. Just one more way of serving the loyal customer.

Or go that one better, and offer free recycling of a single computer system with any Mac purchase. Then create a nice display of piled up Dells and Compaqs and Gateways to show people walking into the Apple Store what people have switched from.

And maybe do the same thing with other MP3 players when people buy iPods….

Apple could do this at minimal cost, but the marketing benefits could have great value.

Think different. Make being green pay off.

– Anne Onymus