The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a program that ranks computers and displays based on environmental attributes in accordance with IEEE 1680.1-2009.

A clear and consistent set of environmental performance criteria for the design of personal computer products including notebook computers, desktop computers, and computer displays is provided, thereby providing an opportunity to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of electronic products. This standard is intended to provide a tool for government, institutional, and corporate purchasers. Product manufacturers may also use this tool to earn recognition in the consumer market, recognizing that certain criteria may not be applicable to all types of purchasers.

According to Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT, Apple asked the organization last month to pull its 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops, which included past versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The likely reason is the new Retina MacBook Pro. Its glass display is fused with the top of the case, while the batteries are glued to the bottom, making it extremely difficult to repair or recycle.

According to iFixit’s EPEAT contacts:

Apple’s mobile design direction is in conflict with the intended direction of the standard. Specifically, the standard lays out particular requirements for product “disassemble-ability,” a very important consideration for recycling: “External enclosures, chassis, and electronic subassemblies shall be removable with commonly available tools or by hand.” Electronics recyclers need to take out hazardous components such as batteries before sending computers through their shredders, because batteries can catch fire when punctured.

Beyond its environmental impact and its inability to be repaired, the decision to pull out EPEAT may have some economic ramifications as well…

According to the Wall Street Journal, many of Apple’s biggest customers require EPEAT certification:

Many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase computers from sources that are EPEAT certified, said Sarah O’Brien director of outreach for EPEAT. And the U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics it purchases be EPEAT certified.

In 2010, the last year the survey was conducted, 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Around 70 of the schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases, according to O’Brien.

As of this writing, iMac’s EPEAT certification is half removed from its website (screenshot above).