LONDON Environmental pressure group Greenpeace recently sought to upstage Apple’s grand party to launch its iPhone in Europe by warning that the phone is not as “green” as it could be.
However, European consumers are likely to be more concerned that the iPhone is not compatible with really fast data-rate 3G networks.
Greenpeace and other “green” groups are demanding that the U.K. version of the phone – which went on sale on Nov. 9 in the shops of mobile operator O2 and partner reseller Carphone Warehouse – should be free of toxic chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Greenpeace alleges that BFRs are contained in the phone’s American counterpart.
According to Zeina Alhajj, campaign coordinator for Greenpeace: “The iPhone is a unique product, and for us it is a missed opportunity for Apple to combine the innovation of the product with a green performance.”
Last month, Greenpeace ripped into Apple for failing to make “early progress” with the iPhone toward the company’s stated goals for eco-friendliness.
Apple responded by reiterating its intent to give itself a year to clean up its act, and stressed that all components used in the phone comply with the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive.
Apple pointed out that it has already pledged to eliminate the use of BFR and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chlorinated plastic, in its products by the end of next year.
But Greenpeace said that is not enough. “If Apple really wants to reinvent the phone, it needs to design out all hazardous substances and materials from its handsets and peripherals,” the group said.
Greenpeace said it concluded its findings after it had “carefully deconstructed” an iPhone at its research laboratory in Exeter, England.
In May, Apple announced that all of its new products would be free from BFRs and PVC by the end of 2008.
However, the company’s pledge apparently did not apply to products already in the pipeline.
The recent Greenpeace study, titled, “Missed Call: iPhone’s Hazardous Chemicals,” stated that half of the iPhone components that were analyzed tested positive for bromine, even though the device debuted a month after Apple presented its “A Greener Apple” proclamation.
However, the green study did give the iPhone a clean bill of health in other areas, including non-use of many other potential carcinogens and toxins.
Unfortunately for Apple, the iPhone is becoming the focal point for a wider assault on the multibilliondollar mobile sector and its alleged lack of eco-credentials. Green lobbyists say the sector has become a significant polluter, and that mobile phone companies must work to address the problem.
Both mobile phone makers and operators refute the allegations and say they are meeting, if not exceeding, their environmental obligations.
Nokia, for example, asserts that up to 80 percent of its handsets are recyclable. It, further, publicly identifies all the materials in its handsets, and last year cut the amount of packaging it uses by 54 percent.
Greenpeace’s campaign is unlikely to stem demand for the iPhone, however. Mobile operator 02 predicts iPhone unit sales of up to 200,000 in the U.K. in the first two months. Some analysts are predicting even higher sales.
Apple also launched the iPhone in France and Germany recently through wireless partners Orange in France and T-Mobile in Germany.
This story appeared in the EE Times Europe print edition covering November 19 - December 9 2007. European residents who wish to receive regular copies of EE Times Europe, subscribe here.
See other stories from this issue here.