Study: Sleeker Laptops Less Sustainable

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ultrabook sustainability study

Ultrabooks like Apple's Macbook Air, while light and powerful, have limitations for refurbishing or recycling, according to a new study. Photo: Flickr/tonyhall

The laptop industry is getting bigger as its products get smaller, but a new study reveals that some of the most compact and most powerful portable computers on the market are among the lease sustainable.

The Electronics Takeback Coalition  found that ultrabooks, a new breed of very small, very light, but still very powerful laptops (think Apple’s Macbook Air) contain a battery that cannot be easily replaced by consumers. This inconvenience may not only shorten the life of the product, but be a major deterrent for refurbishing the computers for reuse.

Prolonging the life of electronic products like laptops is important because of the the vast variety of materials and large amount of energy required for production.

Read: E-Waste Recycling Program Employs Disabled Americans

Having to send the computer to a manufacturer to replace the battery may prevent many users from doing so, the study reports, and instead encourage them to purchase a new device altogether rather than deal with the hassle and cost of having the battery replaced.

“It’s consumer unfriendly (perhaps consumer hostile?) to require us to ship off our laptops for several days to the service facility just to change a battery. A new battery shouldn’t be a repair – it should be something we can purchase and install ourselves,” the study says.

What’s more, Electronics Takeback Coalition reveals that information on the embedded batteries is not always transparent to consumers and that replacing the battery, in some cases, affects or altogether voids the product’s warranty.

The report compares some of the most popular models of ultrabooks on the market by manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, Sony and Dell. It also include information on a couple of ultrabooks, The Sony Vaio T13 and Hewlett-Packard’s EliteBook Folio 9470m, which contain batteries that can be easily replaced by users.

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