From coffee shops to classrooms and from doctors to zoo gorillas, the iPad appears to offer functionality for just about everyone. It is an elegant, lightweight means of communication and entertainment that can be used in just about any setting. Tech reviewers just cannot seem to say enough about the speed and clarity of the most recent iPad – The New iPad or iPad3. Reportedly the battery affords many hours of play and work on what is fast becoming a ubiquitous media device.
All the same, I will not be among the thousands lined up at Apple stores to buy The New iPad. It is a matter of conscience that keeps me from the Apple store.
Mind you, I already use the iPhone 4G. Aside from the sometimes sketchy coverage by AT&T in New York City, I could rave on and on about the merits of the iPhone. I also bought a MacBook for my college age daughter. However, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the environmental impact associated with Apple products – especially the iPad.
In the U.S. we manage to recycle approximately 300 million pounds of electronics products in 2010, less than a quarter of what is estimated to have been ready for recycling at the time. There is good reason to be sensitive to electronics waste. Global Futures Foundations estimates that electronics accounts for as much as 70% of toxic waste in landfills. There are approximately a half billion cell phones laying in drawers and in junk boxes that are ready for disposal. They contain over 300,000 pounds of toxic lead – a good reason to get those phones into a recycling center.
A 2010 survey found that 58% of consumers actually know of recycling and are aware of the more the more than 5,000 recycling centers around the country. Despite that knowledge, only an estimated 25% of electronics were collected for recycling. That data is from 2009, and consumer behavior may may have improved since then, however the Obama Administration is not leaving things up to chance. Obama set up the Taskforce on Electronics Stewardship to work on the dismal rate of electronic products recycling. Likewise, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), an electronics industry group, is sponsoring the eCycling Leadership Initiative. Their goal is to recycle one billion pounds of electronics by 2016.
So why single out Apple? Why not hold back from buying computers from Dell or servers from IBM? One reason is revealed by industry watchdog Gartner. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for North American IT Asset Disposition – a fancy term for recycling. Dell, IBM and Hewlett Packard are included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in the Leadership quarter. Apple is not included at all, even among the Challengers.
Apple has a recycling program just like HP, Dell and IBM. However, a simple, even superficial comparison of Apple’s program to that of Dell tells the whole story. Apple’s promotion of its program appears to be an after-thought and requires quite a bit of reading to find out how to recycle an Apple product. Dell on the other hand showcases it’s program with easy to follow instructions and colorful links. Dell even extends recycling services to non-Dell products. Apply has a few centers in metropolitan areas. Dell has teamed with 2,600 Goodwill Centers around the country.
There is something else that separates Apple from the other electronics producer. It is fast to market with new products and its marketing and promotion campaigns encourage consumers to trade-up whether they need a new device or not. Take for instance the iPhone. By the end of 2010, Apple had sold 73.5 million iPhones in the U.S. and 100 million worldwide. However, it is estimated that at the end of 2010 only 6.4 million iPhones were actually in service in the U.S. What happened to the rest?
Sales at that level had given Apple 4% of the cell phone market and as much as 50% of the profits. This is a company with the economic wherewithal to make recycling more than just an afterthought. Perhaps Apple’s shortcoming can be made up by app developers. The My Recycle app helps iPhone, iPad and iPod users find nearby recycling locations.
Every phone and every computer I have ever owned has gone to a recycler when I purchased a replacement. This needs to be the fate of every electronic device and Apple needs to be a better guide in the process. Then I am out to shop by an iPad.
Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.