Apple Computer Inc. may be cool and hip with consumers, but it's anything but a trendsetter when it comes to good environmental policies, according to activist group Greenpeace.
In its latest report on major electronics manufacturers, Greenpeace ranked Apple dead last on environmental issues because it still uses harmful chemicals in many of its products and because it does a poor job promoting recycling efforts for its iPods and other products.
Near the top of Greenpeace's list for best companies: Dell Inc., ranked only behind Nokia in terms of environmental friendliness.
Round Rock, Texas-based Dell scored points with the group because of its computer take-back and recycling program, which has become among the best in the industry.
Motorola Inc. has made the most improvements, according to Greenpeace, in part because it now makes more than 30 mobile phones and other products that don't contain harmful chemicals.
Apple, however, still relies heavily on toxic chemicals and plastics, Greenpeace said. In a study by the group, Apple's new MacBook Pro laptop computers contained more of one type of a toxic flame retardant chemical than any other top computer brand, for instance.
Such chemicals are thought to be potentially harmful to users but also pollute the environment when they're disposed of, often in poor countries in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, according to Greenpeace.
Apple also provides the least detail of any major electronics company about its environmental policies, according to the group, and is the only major electronics maker that hasn't made any improvements to its environmental policies since a similar Greenpeace report four months ago.
"For a guiding company that is so inspirational to many, we really need to know about these problems and what they're doing about them," said Zeina Alhajj, a Greenpeace campaign coordinator.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling took issue with the Greenpeace findings and the criteria behind the group's report.
He said the company consistently scores high on other environmental rankings, including one created by a group called the Green Electronics Council that's based on Environmental Protection Agency standards.
"Apple has a very strong environmental track record," Dowling said.
On its Web site and in public meetings, Apple and its CEO, Steve Jobs, have hailed as groundbreaking its environmental efforts in some areas.
Apple was a leader in eliminating the use of lead-containing cathode ray tube monitors, for example, and touts its promotion of wireless technology in helping eliminate cables and wires that can contain harmful polyvinyl chloride, or PVC.
Yet the Greenpeace rankings aren't the first time Apple has fallen out of favor with environmental groups.
An Austin, Texas, group, Texas Campaign for the Environment, has repeatedly taken the company to task for its lackluster computer recycling efforts, for instance.
Other groups, such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, have organized protests outside Apple events to try to force it to expand recycling initiatives for its nearly ubiquitous iPods, which like computers have components containing harmful chemicals.
© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution