Environmental group shoots back at Apple

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) — the same environmental group that drew the attention of Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the company’s shareholder meeting yesterday — on Friday shot back at statements Jobs made about the company’s environmental policies. While the groups initial charges were broad, they narrowed the focus on many of the issues in their responses today.

Jobs countered claims that Apple did not have an effective computer takeback program by pointing out that Apple has had such a program for four years, recycling over 1,500 tons in the last year. The SVTC said in response that while that may sound like a lot, it doesn’t compare to the 5,000 tons that HP collected in a six-week program.

However, the SVTC did not counter claims that it made saying that Apple charged for recycling, while HP and Dell did not. Jobs said that both companies charged for their recycling programs.

The SVTC also said Apple has been lobbying against state legislation in Minnesota and Maine requiring companies to setup take-back programs, a claim Jobs flatly denied. The group says Apple hired lobbyist Dan Riley to oppose the State e-waste legislation—the legislation passed with the help of HP and Dell, the group says.

After making an initial claim against Apple in Minnesota, the SVTC did not address this issue in their response today.

Claims that Apple uses prison or forced labor in their recycling programs were categorically denied by Jobs, saying that Apple nor their partners use such labor forces. The SVTC countered saying they have proof.

“Jobs has set up a straw man here,” the SVTC response reads. “By not creating effective pathways for clean, responsible recycling for the vast majority of their products in the waste stream, computer producers such as Apple guarantee that a significant amount of e-waste will be handled by recyclers who use prison labor for disassembly of computers. We have contacts inside the prison system who confirm that Apple computers and other products DO end up in the prison disassembly programs.”

Jobs said that Apple ships ground-up plastics overseas to make new recycled plastics, but the SVTC counters it’s Apple’s inaction on this issue that “assures that e-waste winds up in Asia. We know from allies overseas that Apple products do end up in China and India, sent there via disreputable ‘recyclers,’” according to the response from the group.

Calling the SVTC’s claim that the iPod “a time-bomb for our health,” inexcusable, Jobs did say that there is a small amount of lead in the iPod, which the company is working to get rid of.

“Even small amounts of lead can be very, very harmful,” said the SVTC response. “And because the iPod is so small, it is much more likely to get tossed into the trash (instead of recycled) and end up in the landfill.”

The group also said that even though Apple has set up an iPod battery replacement program that consumers would not take advantage of it, instead choosing to “toss it in the trash.”

Jobs said yesterday that he thought the group was using Apple’s visibility to gain publicity for their own group. Quoting a report in the Kansas City Star , the leader of the environmental group said they “picked the iPod to go after because it’s the hippest thing around.”

Apple representatives were not immediately available for comment.

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