Apple ‘refuses’ to answer MPs’ questions on environmental sustainability and repairability of its products as it is poised to launch new models, according to the Environmental Audit Committee.
As it launches its highly-anticipated range of new products, Apple ‘continues to swerve’ questions from the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on its environmental record and repairability of its devices, the Committee says.
The EAC invited Apple to participate in its Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy inquiry and agreed to appear before MPs on 16 July. However, the company later cancelled its appearance at short notice. Chairman of the Committee, Philip Dunne subsequently wrote to Tim Cook, Chief Executive at Apple on 4 August.
We’re seeing a throwaway society for electronics, and tech companies must take responsibility for the environmental impact that this causes
Despite requesting a response by Friday 4 September, the Committee is yet to receive a substantive reply.
In his letter, Mr Dunne stated concerns about what the Committee calls ‘the social and environmental footprint of the electronics industry’, with e-waste being the fastest growing waste stream in the world, increasing by 21% in the five years to 2019.
Often, small electronics are the hardest to collect and recycle, it says.
With Apple being one of the largest manufacturers of small electronic items, its evidence is ‘crucial’ for the EAC’s inquiry, the Committee says.
Specifically, the EAC is keen to obtain information on what Apple is doing to enhance the operating life of its products, and promote repair, reuse and recycling.
During evidence hearings, the EAC heard how it can be too expensive or ‘even impossible’ for Apple products to be repaired.
The Committee says that it has heard that Apple prevents third parties from repairing its devices and restricts access to parts creating what it calls a ‘monopoly’ on product repair.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, said: “Apple has made more than two billion iPhones – a phone for every person in the whole of Africa and Europe. Today, as Apple unveils its next generation of gadgets, my Committee continues to wait for answers on what the company is doing to tackle its environmental footprint.
“With the speed at which new devices are brought to market, tech companies drive consumers to buy new products rather than prolonging the life of their existing items.
“It can also be very difficult to repair electronic devices, with many companies making it almost impossible – or if possible, very expensive – for consumers to have the ability to fix themselves.
“As a result, we’re seeing a throwaway society for electronics, and tech companies must take responsibility for the environmental impact that this causes. A circular economy with repair and recycling at its heart is crucial if we are to tackle the climate emergency.
“Apple appears to have a positive story to tell regarding its efforts on climate change. But its unwillingness to answer my Committee’s questions has led us to believe its environmental obligations are not taken seriously enough.”
According to a recent European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, smartphones, televisions, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all are used on average for shorter periods than both their designed and desired lifetimes.
Extending the lifetime and delaying obsolescence of electronics can significantly reduce their environmental and climate impacts and contribute to meeting environment, climate and circular economy objectives, according to the EEA.
In a briefing, it sets out how smartphones, televisions, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all are used on average for shorter periods than both their designed and desired lifetimes.
EAC’s inquiry on e-waste and the circular economy also heard from Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at DEFRA, Chris Preston, Deputy Director of Waste and Recycling at DEFRA and Malcolm Lythgo, Deputy Director of Waste Enforcement and Regulation at the Environment Agency, on 17 September.
Apple has been approached for comment.