Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded to his environmental critics during yesterday’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday in Cupertino.

Environmentalists were protesting at what they perceived as Apple’s failure to exercise corporate responsibility in terms of handling electronic waste. They believe Apple should collect abandoned Macs for recycling at the company’s own expense.

Jobs seized the opportunity to respond to these concerns.

MacCentral reports:

““There is a lot of inaccuracy here. I’ll give you an example. Dell and HP don’t do it for free,” said Jobs. “HP charges $40 and Dell charges $20 - we are right in the middle. Apple has a really strong environmental policy.”

Jobs took on the group’s charges one at a time until he had covered all of the topics. The specific issues the group had that were:

1. Apple should start a consumer take-back program where Apple recycles old equipment.

“We’ve had this program for the last four years,” said Jobs. “In the last year alone we have recycled over 1,500 tons of equipment. The group protesting that believes we should do this for free, but we don’t because we believe the responsibility lies not just with us, but also the consumer.”

2. The group says that Apple has been lobbying against state legislation in Minnesota and Maine requiring companies to setup take-back programs.

“This is just not accurate,” said Jobs. “We have been working with Minnesota to create an electronics waste program - we absolutely believe they should have a take-back program. In Maine, we were the only electronics company to get involved.”

3. The group says Apple uses prison or forced labour in the recycling programs.

“This completely untrue. We don’t use any prison or forced labour in our recycling programs or anywhere else,” said Jobs.

“It’s been suggested we do this in software development,” joked Jobs, which brought laughter from the crowd.

4. The protesters say Apple ships hazardous ewaste overseas.

“This is untrue, we don’t ship any ewaste overseas,” said Jobs. “The only thing we ship overseas is ground up plastics that are shipped to make new recycled plastics - this is a good thing.”

5. The protesters call the iPod “a time-bomb for our health and environment because of the toxic materials that will either go into incinerators or landfills.”

“This is untrue,” said Jobs. “There is a small amount of lead in the iPod and we are working to get that out. To call the iPod an environmental time-bomb is just inexcusable.”

6. The group is saying the batteries in the iPod are environmentally irresponsible because they’re not easily user-serviceable.

“We completely disagree,” said Jobs. “As you know most consumers simply throw batteries away when they wear out - this is not the environmental outcome we all want. Apple already has a battery and take-back program in place for both the iPod and the iPod mini.”

“Why is this group spreading this disinformation about Apple’s environmental policies?” asked Jobs.

“We don’t really know, but we think their goal is to use Apple’s visibility to gain publicity for their own group,” said Jobs.

According to Jobs, the leader of the group told the Kansas City Star last month, “We picked the iPod to go after because it’s the hippest thing around.”

“Well they have good taste in picking the iPod, but that doesn’t make their false statements true.” said Jobs.

“This is just [nonsense],” said Jobs to the clapping shareholders.”

The report also informs that Apple’s existing board: Fred Anderson, William Campbell, Millard Drexler, Al Gore, Steve Jobs, Arthur Levinson and Jerome York, were all re-elected.

Shareholders also voted on on a performance bonus plan, and amendments to the employee stock option plan.

Jobs also criticized Microsoft, according to the report.