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UK Environmental Committee Says Apple Contributing to 'Throwaway Culture' of 'Short-Lived Products'

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Technology companies like Apple are contributing to e-waste by making their products difficult to repair, and charging expensive repair fees, according to a lengthy report published today by the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.


"We were told that Apple glues and solders parts together on their laptops, which makes repairing them very difficult," the Committee wrote in a summary of the report. "They also charge very high fees to repair their products. This trend, which goes against a long history of engineering in the UK, needs to stop."

In a statement provided to The Guardian, Apple said it was "surprised" and "disappointed" with the Environmental Audit Committee's report, with the company touting its "industry-leading commitments" to protect the environment:
We were surprised and disappointed with the Environmental Audit Committee's report, which does not reflect any of Apple's efforts to conserve resources and protect the planet we all share. There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before, and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone lineup all use recycled material across key components. We will continue to work with parliament and the government to document Apple's industry-leading commitments and to support our common effort to leave a clean economy and a healthy planet for the next generation.
Apple elaborated on many of its environmental efforts in a letter that it submitted to the Committee in September, including increased use of recycled materials in its products and running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy.

The Committee said the current business model for electronics is "reliant on continuous consumption, a throwaway culture and short-lived products," and called on technology companies to "take the lead in creating sustainable and environmentally-friendly business models that do not rely on exploitation of nature."

The Committee also said it was "disappointed" with Apple's "limited level of engagement" with the inquiry, including its failure to appear before British lawmakers.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: UK Environmental Committee Says Apple Contributing to 'Throwaway Culture' of 'Short-Lived Products'
 

BGPL

macrumors demi-god
May 4, 2016
407
999
California
I'm not an Apple fanboy by any means, but the biggest reason I still purchase Apple products is because of longevity. Obviously this committee has never owned a Dell or HP product. Talk about throwing away a computer after three years of use. I have a 2009 24" iMac and a 2010 13" MacBook Pro that still work perfectly every day.
 
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GermanSuplex

macrumors 65816
Aug 26, 2009
1,177
27,706
It’s not just a problem with Apple, or electronics. So many things are simply not meant to last. Cheap products from China and all sorts of products under the sun are just made to last as short a time as possible before being useless. My grandmother had things that lasted a lifetime
 
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Wiesenlooser

macrumors 6502a
Jul 9, 2010
943
1,222
Their product last for ages. My 2014 MBP still runs completely fine (besides the depleted battery) and iPhones probably have the longest OS update support in the industry.

What is true that their products are hard to repair, part of it is because of more compact design, tightening tolerances and waterproof-ness. But to my knowledge if you go to an Apple Store and they have to exchange parts / computers, the exchanged product gets recycles.

They could clearly build their products to be more repairable or modular, but then product quality would suffer. It's very clear they are prioritising product quality and do what they can do to mitigate the negative effects of bad repairability.
 
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baryon

macrumors 68040
Oct 3, 2009
3,595
1,912
Yes, many of the things Apple does is just "how it has become" with every electronics manufacturer. But Apple takes many specific steps to prevent repairs for absolutely no good reason. For example, using glue to secure the battery to the top case instead of screws or pull-tab adhesive is just wrong. The battery is going to go bad at some point before the rest of the device fails, and you can't replace it unless you bring it to Apple so they can more or less give you a new computer and make you pay for it too.

Oh, and "trade in and recycle" is great but you know what's better? Being able to replace the broken ribbon cable without having to buy a whole new screen and then being able to continue to use the computer for another 3 years. Or being able to swap out the battery yourself. It's REDUCE reuse recycle. Reduce the need to have to buy a new on first, by making it repairable for when it inevitably fails. Remember those horrible butterfly keyboards you paid so much for? Yeah you couldn't even replace a SINGLE KEY on them. And the entire keyboard was riveted in. With hundreds of rivets. I don't think that's okay. I wonder what Apple would have to say about that. Just recycle it! Oh yeah, I bought a computer instead of a new car – but hey, they F key broke! I'll just recycle the whole computer! Environment yay! Money yay!

PS: Oh and one year warranty, Apple. When every other company gives you two years minimum, but usually 3 years if you register on their website. That means all other companies will guarantee that their products will last 3 times longer than Apple's, and if they don't, they'll take responsibility and fix it for free. What will Apple do? Suggest you recycle it.
 
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mazz0

macrumors 68020
Mar 23, 2011
2,291
1,744
Leeds, UK
Well, they've got a point I suppose. Odd to single out Apple though, they're better in this regard that most of their competitors, especially when it comes to OS support. I suppose they're a bigger name than most of their competitors though. And of course it doesn't say that the report *doesn't* criticise other companies.
 
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bydandie

macrumors regular
Sep 22, 2009
200
76
I'm not an Apple fanboy by any means, but the biggest reason I still purchase Apple products is because of longevity. Obviously this committee has never owned a Dell or HP product. Talk about throwing away a computer after three years of use. I have a 2009 24" iMac and a 2010 13" MacBook Pro that still work perfectly every day.
I agree with this, but the point of pointing out how long a device will be supported for will show the value and commitment from Apple, Microsoft and Google. This is something I asked for in the IoT code of practice a couple of years ago.

Apple still have a way to go though with the likes of Apple Watch, which is a consumable product still (I have an AW4 with a crack on the screen and the only suggestion from Apple is pay for a repair that is the cost of a new AW - the case is perfect BTW)
 
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LeadingHeat

macrumors 6502
Oct 3, 2015
384
929
What a fantastic way to stifle innovation. Stop making phones that are so good that I need to throw away my old one! Just make one that’s not better so I don’t feel the need to get one every year! Curse you Apple!

For as much as the UK is touting their “engineering” feats, you’d think they would be the ones where Apple was born. Or any of the other tech giants. Oh, wait...
 
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Freida

macrumors 68030
Oct 22, 2010
2,883
3,964
Well, technically Apple was born in UK as Apple wouldn't probably be Apple without Jonny Ive. ;-)

What a fantastic way to stifle innovation. Stop making phones that are so good that I need to throw away my old one! Just make one that’s not better so I don’t feel the need to get one every year! Curse you Apple!

For as much as the UK is touting their “engineering” feats, you’d think they would be the ones where Apple was born. Or any of the other tech giants. Oh, wait...
 
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CWallace

macrumors G3
Aug 17, 2007
8,255
4,729
Seattle, WA
One area in which this report is 100%, devices should be easier to repair than they are now. Apple is in fact making their products harder to repair.

This is true, but Apple balances that by offering replacement rather than repair for a significant portion of their warranted products. The benefit to the customer is immediate resolution rather than waiting for a repair.

But Apple does not then just toss the defective product in the dust-bin, but sends it back for formal repair (where the longer repair time is not an issue) or reclamation of usable components and recycling of non-reclaimable components.
 
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Psychicbob

macrumors regular
Oct 2, 2018
247
573
You’re living in the paaaast, maaaan!

I don’t think it is possible to get the improvements in tech and performance unless you go down the SoC type route. Expecting to build high tech kit and still keep it maintenance light like the old Land Rover Defender is naive.
 
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drsox

macrumors 68000
Apr 29, 2011
1,566
99
Xhystos
PS: Oh and one year warranty, Apple. When every other company gives you two years minimum, but usually 3 years if you register on their website. That means all other companies will guarantee that their products will last 3 times longer than Apple's, and if they don't, they'll take responsibility and fix it for free. What will Apple do? Suggest you recycle it.

I buy from a local apple dealer who give 3 years warranty - an inducement to buy from them.
 
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apparatchik

macrumors 6502
Mar 6, 2008
276
656
Its capitalism 101, also known as social obsolescence, no one (or very few) are repairing say, their smartphones themselves, now, Apple devices last the longest, their useful life way longer than its competitors, so in a sense they are the least disposable of the industry... people hanging on to a 5-8 year old Mac or a 3-4 year old iPhone, in comparison a 4 year old Android is completely useless, these Committees should be pushing manufacturers to increase quality and useful life of the products across the board...
 
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LeadingHeat

macrumors 6502
Oct 3, 2015
384
929
Well, technically Apple was born in UK as Apple wouldn't probably be Apple without Jonny Ive. ;-)
Haha. I will say he was great at the design process, especially in his early days! Except he wasn’t there in the actual beginning, and the laws affecting small businesses and entrepreneurs were/are much more lenient and flexible than in the UK.
 
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Akrapovic

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2018
836
1,685
Scotland
I agree with some of this regarding Apples repairability. However, the counter argument to this is that Apple laptops last a long time. We've got some 10 year old Airs kicking around that still work. I've went through 4 HP laptops in that same time. Whilst they may be easier to repair, they are uneconomical to repair because the repair costs are as much as buying a new laptop. So why not buy the new one?

This isn't as black and white as "hard to repair is bad". There needs to be a discussion on the trade offs.
 
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