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Greenpeace to gatecrash iPhone's Europe debut party

Posted: 07 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPhone? toxic chemicals? RoHS? handset?

Greenpeace is planning to upstage plans by Apple Inc. for a 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 more likely to be concerned that the iPhone is not compatible with really fast data rate 3G networks.

Greenpeace and other "Green" groups are demanding that the United Kingdom version of the phone, which goes on sale on Nov. 9 at exactly 6 P.M. in the shops of mobile operator O2 and partner reseller Carphone Warehouse, should be free of the toxic chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants, that Greenpeace alleges are contained in its 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 ecofriendliness. Apple responded by reiterating its intent to give itself a year to clean up its act, and stressed all components used in the phone comply with the RoHS directive.

The company points out that it has already pledged to eliminate the use of PVC and brominated flame retardants in its products by the end of next year.

'Not enough'
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 its findings come after it "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 brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chlorinated plastic, by the end of 2008. However, the company's pledge apparently did not apply to products already in the pipeline:

The recent Greenpeace study, Missed Call: iPhone's Hazardous Chemicals , pointed out that half of the iPhone components analyzed tested positive for bromine, even though the device debuted a month after Apple's "A Greener Apple'' proclamation. However, the study did give the iPhone a clean bill of health in many other areas, including non-use of many other potential carcinogens or toxins.

Unfortunately for Apple, the iPhone is becoming the focal point for a wider assault on the multibillion-pound mobile sector and its alleged lack of eco-credentials. Green lobbyists say that the sector has become a significant polluter and that mobile 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 publicly identifies all the materials in its handsets, and last year cut the packaging it uses by 54 percent.

The pressure groups' campaign is unlikely to stem demand for the iPhone, with 02 predicting sales of up to 200,000 in the U.K in the first two months. Some analysts are predicting even higher sales.

Apple will also be launching the iPhone in France and Germany on Friday, through Orange in France and T-Mobile in Germany.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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