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The Aluminum Mac it Green?

So Apple has once again managed to get the world all excited about some fancy new device...though I don't think anyone's quite certain exactly why this is so cool. In essence, Apple will be carving their new MacBooks out of one solid block of aluminum, certainly not as green as some of the bamboo cases we've seen. The advantages, they say, are unsurpassed style and best canadian pharmacy ultra-light weight. But I'm only concerned about one this thing going to save the earth...or destroy it?

Well, it turns out it's a little of both. The new process slices the computer case out of a 2.5 lb brick of highly processed aluminum. At the end of the process, there's a 0.5 lb case. So, right off the bat, Apple is creating a block of metal with a huge amount of embodied energy (from the cod online tramadol mine through the final milling process) and the vast majority of it is just going into the recycling bin to be re-melted and re-processed. Green? I think not.

The current Macbook cases (I'm typing on one right now) are simple, hard, white plastic. They're just as durable, and take far less energy to produce than a 2.5 lb brick of highly milled aluminum. I'm not sure what the best prices on levitra advantage here is, but it's certainly not sustainability.

The other concern with Apple's gadgets is that they can sometimes be extremely difficult to repair. Aluminum-cased iPods sometimes can't even be repaired without scrapping the case entirely. Obviously that would be a big environmental no-no for Apple - to have to scrap a case every time an internal repair was needed.

But on other fronts, the new Macbooks are chock full of green cred. Their rated EPeat Gold, a measure of environmental friendliness of computers, something only a handful of other computers boast. They contain no mercury, no BFRs, no lead, and the LCD screens are backlit by highly efficient LEDs. They may even be just as green as the Macbook Air.

I'm glad to see Apple focusing on the we choice levitra mail order efficiency of their computers, not to mention decreasing the amount of toxic materials they contain. But this new carved-brick process isn't green, it's wasteful, and I'm happy to be sticking with my good-ol' plastic clunker.

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Comments (35)Add Comment
written by Ken Roberts, October 14, 2008
Manufacturing is the Achilles heel of environmental groups. How much damage does this do to the environment to produce? You have no idea. From the high cost, I'm guessing that Apple has to spend more resources than average to build this thing. We cannot be single-mindedly focused on the contents of the end product.
yes, but...
written by Tom, October 14, 2008
Good post; if you don't need one, getting a new computer is almost never the environmentally friendly thing to do. I like that you're thinking "outside the box" here, but your case is a bit overstated. Two points:

1. I don't work for Apple, but I simply cannot imagine all of that excess aluminum being thrown away. Most of it is probably immediately recycled (its much, much cheaper and energy intensive that way).

2. If it weighs less, it has less stuff in it. Also, if it has fewer parts, it requires less energy to assemble.

That said, I really do like this site, and tremendously appreciate the cialis100mg effort you guys put into it. I think you are really doing us all a great service.
written by Ken Roberts, October 14, 2008
Energy to assemble needs to also include the intellectual labor going into the product.
But wait
written by Justin M, October 14, 2008
I won't be so convinced until I get my hands on one of these things. The brick process COULD be much better than other methods IF it becomes easy to modify and easy to reclaim the aluminum from scrap and product. Melting high quality aluminum if FAR easier than electrochemically separating it.
I guess what I'm saying is that this sounds like a rather complicated accounting problem, but one that gets much easier if we could quickly rely on clean energy.
And not to brag, but I've opened and fixed my iPod twice without scratching it.
written by filo, October 15, 2008
Initially my feelings were much in line with what Hank has expressed.

However I'm waiting for someone to prove that this milling and recycling method is more inefficient. Unfortunately Hank hasn't really brought anything to the table but (a reasonably well thought out) opinion.

Please get back to us when you have some evidence to back you up Hank.

I really hope you're wrong, but I fear you're not.

written by Advent, October 15, 2008
Don't forget that they could be getting the energy for the milling and recycling of the aluminum from renewable resources. All it takes to mill and viagra in canada recycle is electricity. What's it take to recycle plastic? A lot of electricity and a heck of a lot of chemicals.

Depending upon where they get their batteries and aluminum from, it's entirely possible that the new MacBooks, by weight, are mostly recycled materials already.
Recycling Plastic vs Metal
written by Teko, October 15, 2008
Plastic is only reusable 7 times, and with each time it down grades, eventually they end up like dust to pollute the environment(especially being consumed by marine life) Where as metal is reclaimable, so recycling aluminum is doing a lot of good. Think 5years ahead -> When those processors in what was the fanciest Macbook at the time is no longer able to keep up with the latest software. The Mac book is just a heap of part that needs to be separated and recycled as easily as possible (assuming that people are still serious about dealing with waste in a responsible manner.)
So using aluminum is probably a good idea, and even better if you could just pull out the original mother board, and upgrade parts that needs it that'd be a step in the right direction... The only thing is Apple may not profit as much if they are only selling part as opposed to selling a whole new laptop.

So maybe in the end it's 'enviromnetal accountability vs profit'
written by mattbc, October 15, 2008
The current Macbook cases (I'm typing on one right now) are simple, hard, white plastic. They're just as durable, and take far less energy to produce than a 2.5 lb brick of highly milled aluminum.

the plastic on my macbook is cracking and it isn't at all durable. if you do a GIS for 'macbook palmrest cracked plastic' you'll see what's happened to my macbook.
written by iSean, October 15, 2008
All of the aluminium that is shaved off of the MacBook/MacBook Pros is being recycled back into the manufacturing process. Apple's not wasting anything. *And* we only are assuming that this is taking more energy, as it's a metal piece of aluminum going through an extruder when it's very hot, which probably doesn't require that much energy, not to mention a lot of the cutting is done by lasers which don't require that much energy to run. Apple also reduced the size of their packaging almost half for the MacBook and 37% for the pro, which means more computers per shipment, which means less petrol to move them place to place, and it's also less for an irresponsible consumer to throw away rather than recycle.

Apple is being very environmentally conscious here.
written by Ian George, October 15, 2008
I agree with what some of the others have said above... from a environmental basis, plastic is very hard pressed to beat aluminum for the full cycle.

Sense you do not know the process being used here... which to me is the major flaw of the whole article... what data do you have about the process that will be used? If you have no data about how they are doing what they are doing... then there are just too many ways this can be done to accurately be able to make any kind of environmental claims about it.... out right claiming plastic is better without knowing the data about the process in question, is 100% pure opinion... and thus a useless statement.
Reuse not recycle
written by Andy, October 15, 2008
I think one of the more green things about macs if the product lifespan. People tend to use apples for a long long time where as pc's tend to become obsolete much quicker. I bought a powerbook 2 years ago off ebay used it for a year and a half before upgrading. Someone actually bought my old powerbook off me for more than I paid for it! You would not get that happening with a standard laptop. With the longer lifespans they put less of a strain on the environment.
written by davidm., October 15, 2008
Apple estimates that the new Macbook will produce 360 kg CO2 over its lifespan (no idea what they consider 'lifespan'). Half of that occurs in the manufacturing process.

how dare you insult mac
written by czf, October 15, 2008
I noticed here that people are not taking well to the idea of criticizing Mac's green cred. I think its almost safe to assume they have just as much trouble as anyone else manufacturing new products that are both luxurious and cheap cialis without prescription eco-friendly. The two often clash, and when they do, luxury and style often trump.
More durable
written by sarah11918, October 15, 2008
As mattbc wrote, the plastic macbooks (mine is currently held with scotch tape!) crack at the palmrest. Part of this is because the bottom of the base is all one smooth piece, then the thin plastic top appears to be attached on top.

From the pictures, it looks like the newer models are all one piece for the top and the sides, with a secondary piece at the bottom for enclosure. Not only will the inside be stronger as all one piece, but your palms won't be resting near where the viagra overnight mail two pieces connect anymore.

I had an Apple laptop that I bought used in 1997 (!) and it still worked fine in 2007, it was just horribly out of date and couldn't really function in the modern world. This 2007 plastic macbook had signs of wear within a year (staining at the palmrests, cracked case, temperamental trackpad button). I'm hoping that the new process will help make the hardware longer-lasting than the current plastic models. I had told myself that this purchase would last perfectly fine for years to come (until a MacTablet finally shows up) but the current plastic manufacturing just isn't holding up for me.
Recycling aluminum
written by Hank, October 15, 2008
There's nothing green about recycling aluminum unless the aluminum being used is recycled. Mac has made no claims that they'll be using recycled aluminum, so one must assume that they're using the high-grade stuff straight from the ground.

This is extremely energy intensive to create, and fairly energy intensive to recycle. Just because it can be recycled (nothing about whether it will be) doesn't make it green.
written by nicster, October 15, 2008
The conclusion that this is not a green process ignores one very important factor. The amount of energy needed to get bauxite from the ground and turned into a block of very pure aluminum is huge. But, the amount of energy needed to melt the leftover metal back into a block of very pure aluminum is very, very much smaller. My somewhat-educated guess is two or three orders of magnitude (.1-1%). Using these numbers the equation leans much more toward "green."
recycling aluminum
written by Neil Fiertel, October 15, 2008
I used to recycle aluminum, melt it in a furnace and reuse the remains over and over. Unlike other metals, aluminum melts at a low temperature, say around 1100F and can be poured at just a bit higher than that even in a low tech situation which clearly Apple can do better and with electric induction furnaces which are highly efficient. Manufacturing the case in the way that they have chosen is very sensible, accurate, strong and proper. Using a die cast system instead requires a different alloy which has other issues. Recycling pure aluminum is a no brainer. Green advocates must learn facts before going off in all directions which hurts the cause more often than not. Being green does not mean being primitive. The glues and adhesives, plastics and difficulty in recycling after the lifetime of the computer is much more intrusive on the environment than an easy to disassemble Apple computer in this new design. Check facts..check facts and check facts first.
Bring back the Newton!
written by John Galt, October 15, 2008
For the love of Steve Job's, can we please have a Mac TABLET that I can take with me on the road and use it to sketch on?

I like the milled aluminum case but I could care less about another new Mac Book design!
Hank Hank
written by jEff re:, October 15, 2008
This article is a little weak and presumptive. Aluminum is a highly recyclable material. This process also means a stronger computer that is less likely to break needing repair, it also protects the viagra cheap free shipping internal components and only today overnight viagra uses less of them, something like 40%. All in all the computer lasts longer and is easier to recycle. We have to look at THE ENTIRE LIFE of the product while also taking into account the manufacturing. CRADLE TO CRADLE I am confident this machine is better for the environment.
written by Brian, October 15, 2008
I have just ordered one. Before you scorn for replacing my current TiBook, it is 7 years old, it has lived its beautiful life, and well. I am actually selling it to a friend as word processing machine, so no junk pile for this beauty.
I do agree that dropping 2lbs of scrap aluminum back into the recycling machine isnt as energy efficient, but how much energy does it take to mold, form, extrude, and mill the current frame and casing for the prev gen aluminum book.
Wouldnt it work just as well to cast the basic structure of the macbook, then do some fine milling? Seems like you would accomplish the same thing as milling it all straight from extruded aluminum. Granted extruded aluminum is a little bit stronger, but I am not using it at batting practice, it sits on my lap and my desk.
I highly recommend watching the live recording of the release, they show a clip of the manufacturing process and it answers some of the questions people have here.

written by EV, October 15, 2008
Ok, some new information has come up for this. First, opening up the cheap viagra order online cases for these laptops is trivial. This site takes it all the way open, you can even see the motherboard. All it requires is a screw driver.

Now, on machining that block down to 0.5lb. Apple would have to be insane to not reuse the machined out aluminum. The single largest expense in turning bauxite into aluminum is energy. Reusing that aluminum reduces the energy required by 95%. They would be wasting a lot of money if they didn't take the aluminum they milled out and put it right back into their plant.
Art Director
written by Taylor, October 15, 2008
Amen to Teko. I am glad that people are questioning rather than blindly following apple's pr; however, I disagree on the point that bamboo is more eco-friendly. When sourcing the product many of the asian countries or origination aren't closely monitoring the harvesting. Many times its over harvested and destroying much of the food source for pandas, an endangered species. Aluminum is one of the most highly recyclable materials.

However, I would be curious, to see the actual figures. Is the over harvesting and viagra china destruction of a feeding source or the energy put into recycling the other 2 pounds or so of aluminum?

On top of that, didn't steve jobs seem very disinterested in this product pitch, in comparison to others.
written by Cooper, October 16, 2008
Not green? The solid Al plate will improve thermal conductivity. The faster the levitra india laptop gives off waste heat, the cooler it stays. The cooler it stays, the less power it consumes.

Someone should side-by-side compare the old plastic (poor conductor of heat) to the newer Al brick case on power consumption and temp on an intensive task.

If the new Al cased notebook runs cooler and uses less (which it should), that right there makes it greener.

Also, the largest Al manf. (like Alcoa) do not produce Al from ore based on supply/demand. Al is produced period. continuously separated, continuously cast 24/7. Wether apple buys fresh Al or scrap Al, only matters to the price we pay and the possibilities of defects in the initial plate. (For perspective, it takes more energy to operate a comparable output (by volume) continuous recycled-steel mini-mill than it does to operate a bauxite reduction and rolling house.

yes. It is still greener.
written by Middleman, October 17, 2008
One thing for sure is that this time round, Apple has not allowed their green credentials to pass.

While it is wonderful that Apple is upholding their corporate responsibility, especially in view of the environment. I've been surprised by a lot of comments from Mac users, especially about the design. Personally I think its a great design (and an ecologically sustainable one too!).

My only concern is really the glass and the battery. While the glass should probably last the lifetime of the laptop (provided it doesn't break and the casing is strong enough), what will happen to the lithium battery in terms of recycability? Can it be recycled? Even better what can replace lithium-ion? (maybe this perhaps? > )

At least the new screen is now using LEDs...which should be more recyclable (I hope). Older LCD screens as you should know used mini cathode-ray tubes as the backlight.
Hardly green
written by Jon, October 17, 2008
Apple is doing nothing new in machining aluminum or recycling the aluminum scrap. Every machine shop does this, because it saves money. (a different kind of green.)

Machined aluminum has higher strength than cast aluminum. Both can be recycled. But machining requires more recycling than die-casting due to the large amount of scrap. That's more energy cost, (more heat to melt it, more slag/Al oxide produced) so less green. Conservation beats using recycling every time.

Better heat conduction doesn't equal lower power consumption unless you can stop using fans. Apple hasn't done that.

Apple's designers love the "machined look." Their engineers like the higher-strength properties of the wrought alloy vs. die-cast. That's why it's machined, not for any ecologically-based reason.

A disclaimer: I'm an engineer. I love machined parts. But don't make the mistake of thinking Apple's machined unibody design is all about being environmentally friendly.
written by nicster, October 17, 2008
a couple of your points miss the mark for me. re-heating the scrap takes significantly less energy than recycling aluminum or smelting it in the first place.

greater strength means less aluminum used in the first place.

better heat conduction may not eliminate the fan but it certainly means that it's used less often. which means less energy consumption. how much less we don't know.
hit job
written by disdaniel, October 18, 2008
Surprisingly poor research on this article. If you are going to assert that using aluminum is worse than plastic, you really ought to back it up with some data.
Using aluminum seems a good choice (if initially more expensive) for this application.
Are you assuming the plastic can be recycled?
written by Brian Green, October 19, 2008
I find it interesting that many here seem to be trashing Apple for their new laptop designs rather than comparing them with offerings from other companies. How do Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Samsung laptops (just to select a few) hold up in comparison? I don't see anyone breaking them down to see how environmentally friendly those laptops are.

I think Apple is on the right track here and free levitra sample doing the best they can while never compromising on quality. Quality is what makes people buy their products. Take a look around a college campus, or even a large public library and see how many of them you see versus other brands. Having all of those laptops out there is a good thing because those people will probably upgrade to the new MacBook or MacBook Pro and their old machines handed down, sold on eBay, or recycled (I handed my old G3 laptop to them when I bought my new one and they recycled it for me).

Computers shouldn't hit landfills at all these days. There are too many ways to recycle them. When it comes to the energy used to produce them, I want to compare Apples to Apples and see how the other companies are doing. I'd guess Apple is leading the pack in regard to being recyclable.

Hank, being that you're the founder of this site and someone in the environmental community people have heard of, have you asked Apple to clarify some of the environmental record stuff? Just curious. Maybe they'll tell you more if you ask them, considering that they are really trying to be seen as more green.
Better doublecheck
written by cybercitizen, October 23, 2008
All the pieces coming out of the milling process are totally recycleable. Because aluminium conducts heat well, you might not need a fan to cool the processor. I think you should doublecheck with an independent expert and the manufacturer to gain full perspective on the lifetime energy costs.
written by Kathy, October 27, 2008
Of all the comments about being green, I can't believe no one has mentioned that plastic, particularly in this case, comes from monomers and discount levitra online petroleum hydrocarbons! The basic white plastic case used for computer cases is ABS - a plastic derived from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. Acrylonitrile is a synthetic monomer produced from propylene and ammonia; butadiene is a petroleum hydrocarbon obtained from butane; and styrene monomers, derived from coal, are commercially obtained from benzene and ethylene from coal. Kudos to MAC for trying to break our dependence on the OIL industry! Coal is filthy business but science is trying to clean up the process - however, anything that will get us off the band wagon for big oil is good news for all fo us.
come on
written by Enrico, October 29, 2008
Aluminium takes energy to extract and process, but once it is refined it is very easy and cheap to recycle. In the case of macbook cases this process is obviously integrated into the factory.

It's a metal and it's more durable than the plastic of the previous macbooks with the difference that no strange petrol-chemicals are needed to process aluminium. Also I had to change twice the palm rest and once the bottom case due to faulty plastic this process in applecare harms the invironment way more than the production of the new case.

I'd say it is definitely more ecofriendly than plastics.
Get power back from the fan.
written by Electron, October 29, 2008
The aluminum case IS eco-friendly.

Manufacturing Aluminum uses 15 KWh/Kg, but recycling it uses 5% of that (750Wh/Kg)

If the fan consumption decreases by 0.5W as a result of the better case dissipation, the recycling power is offset after running it for 1500 hours, way less than the expected life of the notebook, so just the better cooling with lower speed fan offsets the need to recycle scrapped aluminum from a global energy use point of view.

Other advantages are lower noise, slightly longer battery life (less power wasted in the fan), no hot spots on the case, lower component stress / longer life. After it's useful life, all the remaining aluminum can also be recycled.
If this laptop is a commercial success, we'll probably see more aluminum case laptops in the future.
written by Ash, December 23, 2008
Bollocks Article

Just opinion, no fact.

Plastic comes from where?

Plastics come from various raw materials. Some come from oil while others come from coal, natural gas, wood or grain.
In the case of oil, DuPont first patented a process to obtain polyethylene from oil in 1934 or 1937, I think. The first parts of the process are really refinery techniques, much like getting gasoline or diesel fuel.

Basically, you heat the oil in a distilling column and on line pharmacy as it changes temperatures a various heights, different chemical compounds liquefy at various strata in the column.

Neither are really doing anything for the planet, but how are you ever going to make any product without using energy. You're not. Plastic, Recyclable.. Well that's a bag of hurt. Aluminium on the other hand I guess is a big bag of not-so much hurt.

It's like Hydrogen Fuel Cell or Battery Cars, the energy still has to be made somewhere.

Strange you don't mention the reduction in packaging, or the fact its more recyclable. Or the fact that now they are lighter they will cost less to transport on the carbon side of things.

How about the fact that no one I have ever seen uses bamboo laptops (BTW Hemp completely kicks bamboo's ass), whereas i'm guessing in just a few months my uni will be flooded my Aluminium Mac's in various incarnations.

BTW Apple did say (Upon release) all the off cuts are recycled.

Compared to the old manufacturing process which utilised plastics, random metals etc which must have created much excess crap, the new brick method provides a way of reusing all off cuts from the process.

And here's my major eco gripe. Aluminium plentiful.
Sure Manufacture uses up energy but what doesn't.
Same for Plastics (PVC), but they are made from petroleum. Let's not forget the problems with obtaining things like that. Not just ecological problems, but the social problems like the Iraq war. Yeah I said it, im not bringin politics in but, oil trade... not good.

Do some research next time. And some deductive thinking.
You people are stupid
written by George Stasny, April 07, 2009
If anyone here would stop and think about the economic implications of using aluminum versus plastic, you would see why using aluminum is infinitely worse for the environment. Plastic is dirt cheap. Why? Not because it's bad for the environment (which it is) but because it's a byproduct of gasoline production. Gasoline supplies so vastly exceed plastics demand that plastic remains one of the cheapest materials on the planet. If Apple doesn't use plastic in macbooks, the supply won't change, it'll just get cheaper. Now on to aluminum. Aluminum production from processing bauxite is one of the dirtiest processes around, and does a number of nasty things for the environment wherever it's produced. If you use recycled aluminum, that's much better for the environment, right? Sadly, the supply of recyclable aluminum is once again fixed. When Apple buys up recycled aluminum to use in their macbooks, they leave less recycled aluminum for others to use and in turn increase the total amount of aluminum that is mined and processed worldwide.

If you would consider the actual implications of economic decisions maybe you people could actually start doing some good rather than just buying every new shiny product that Apple tells you is great for the earth. Grow up and learn something people.
written by Sam, March 06, 2010
I'm glad to see that apple have gone for the green approach of using aluminum, even though it probably is aimed at attracting peoples inner greeness that will probably never emerge again until it comes to buying another shinny gadget. But i do wonder why apple didn't opt for casting the body's and then finishing then with CNC milling. This would probably have been far quicker, lest wasteful and over all less expensive to make. After all those blocks of aluminum will have been cast in the first place, so why not in the a shape closer to the final product?

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