Apple's waste recycling policy was put in the picture yesterday when 20 safety-suit wearing protestors staged a noon demonstration outside the company's Cupertino HQ.

The demonstrators claim Apple's electronic waste recycling policies "lag behind" those at HP and Dell, reports the ContraCostaTimes.

One placard read, "iPod equals iWaste". Demonstrators plan a larger rally outside Macworld Expo San Francisco later today.

Apple has has not yet accepted the concept that manufacturers should take responsibility for electronic waste, the report explains. It does offer US customers a fee-based computer return plan. It also joined eBay's new recycling initiative last week.

Post tsunami - what price ecological stewardship?

Ted Smith, director of Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, said that Apple and others have "lobbied against state legislation that would place part of the responsibility for waste recycling on producers".

The company lobbied against Californian and State of Maine state laws enforcing shared responsibility as they passed through those respective legislatures.

California is beginning what the local report describes as "a groundbreaking state government program to deal with ewaste". This scheme requires retailers to collect fees on new computers sold to pay for future recycling of TVs and monitors.

The Californian Act - the Electronic Waste Recycling Act - was passed as one of the final acts of former Democratic Californian Governor Gray Davis in late 2003. It means Californians need to pay an extra $6-10 for every TV or monitor.

The BBC reports the bill was originally proposed by a Palo Alto senator, and was "at first rejected after pressure from manufacturers who did not want to have to charge more or change their practices."

Apple pleads for collective care

Apple hosts pages on its site that claim some initiatives in recognition that environmental matters matter: "Apple has long been an advocate of product stewardship", these pages explain, "we believe that this concept extends to the proper disposal of electronic equipment at the end of its useful life".

"Product stewardship means that all parties who have a role in producing, selling or using Apple products also have a role in managing Apple products at the end of their useful life. We are committed to compliance with all applicable regulations and laws in this area, worldwide."

This page says Apple believes producers should provide "a means to facilitate environmentally friendly recycling of their products at the end of electronic products’ useful life."

These laws could have a material adverse affect on the Company

However, a note on page 55 of the companies SEC-filed 10K form shows that Apple's bean counters are concerned that taking responsibility for electronic waste could harm the company's bottom-line - and conceivably reduce its value to shareholders:

"Production and marketing of products in certain states and countries may subject the Company to environmental and other regulations including, in some instances, the requirement to provide customers the ability to return product at the end of its useful life, and place responsibility for environmentally safe disposal or recycling with the Company."

The report adds: "Such laws and regulations have recently been passed in several jurisdictions in which the Company operates, including various European Union member countries, Japan and certain states within the US. In the future, these laws could have a material adverse affect on the Company."