By on January 12, 2005

Apparently, there were some who were less than thrilled with Apple at the Macworld Expo; environmentalist protesters stationed themselves outside the Moscone Center with a pile of old Macs, promoting “a nationwide campaign to protest what they say are Apple’s irresponsible environmental practices, particularly what they claim is the company’s failure to ensure that its products are disposed of properly.”

Good flippin’ grief! They want a consumer goods manufacturer to take responsibility for the product after the end user has decided the product has reached the end of its usefulness? (Actually, Apple does offer this service worldwide, but apparently they charge their US customers to dispose of junk hardware; laws in Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea require them to do it for free.) And of all the computer manufacturers, why pick on Apple with their miniscule market share (smirk, smirk!)

Don’t get me wrong… I want to leave a clean planet to my grandkids as much as the next guy, but holding the manufacturer responsible for its customers’ discarded goods is a bit much. What would that look like if the same concept were applied to other industries, like automobiles? Or alkaline batteries? Or tires? Or maybe disposable diapers or fast food? The producer has got to cut the umbilical cord at some point.

And not only that, these people are also expecting Apple to babysit all of its raw materials & parts vendors to make sure they comply with pie in the sky waste disposal standards. If all of the vendors were in the US, that might be possible, but many are overseas, and last I checked US environmental laws don’t apply outside our borders. Sure, Apple can pressure the overseas vendors to follow more stringent guidelines for waste disposal, but when it gets down to brass tacks, Apple — and other manufacturers — are trying to reduce costs to bring lower cost goods to the market, while also trying to provide a decent return for investors; holding the manufacturer responsible for both its vendors’ and customers’ waste disposal would serve to increase costs and drive otherwise good companies out of business.

No, the responsibility for the proper disposal or recycling of consumer electronics needs to stay with the end user.