Greenpeace lauds, then criticizes Apple cleanup effort

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Greenpeace has already celebrated Apple's new push towards eco-friendly goods as beating much of the industry at its own game. The Mac maker, however, wasn't completely off the hook.

The environmental activist group didn't hesitate in responding to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' open letter on Wednesday, "cheering" the move as a major step towards electronics free of toxic chemicals.

Complements were especially warm for the consumer electronics firm's turnaround on removing the most hazardous elements from its devices. Brominated Fire Retardants and PVC plastic. Greenpeace was acutely aware of Dell's 2009 target for doing the same and was pleased to hear that the Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker would be eclipsed by its arch-rival a full year sooner, scrubbing the devices clean by 2008.

"Way to go Steve," Greenpeace said on the matter.

The activist group also felt that its targeted campaign for greener Apple hardware had been validated by the change. Efforts by supporters to spotlight the computer builder's shortcomings in dramatic fashion — which included a complaint-ridden MacExpo protest and a near-literal greening of Apple stores — had made it "clear" that the wasteful practices needed to change, Greenpeace claimed.

Apple's CEO had mentioned the environmentalists' demands in his letter, but said nothing of the related protests. The company's shareholders had until today been scheduled to vote later his month on an investor-driven green timetable which would have brought the issue to the forefront with or without the demonstrations..

Even with its seeming victory, however, Greenpeace quickly turned its commendation into a jab at Apple's remaining weaknesses. The Mac maker's computer take-back program was singled out as overly US-centric, according to the statement. While it meant that no discarded systems or handhelds from American would filter back to Asia and contribute to local pollution, buyers in other regions would be forced to toss their systems away. Other companies have already implemented worldwide recycling programs.

The environmental advocates also made it evident that the plan had to translate into action, and that the expectations for Apple — a company known for meticulous design — would be especially high.

"Apple hasn't gotten an actual green product to market, but no other electronics manufacture has either," Greenpeace commented. "That's a race worthy of the wizards of Cupertino."