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Steve Jobs on Wednesday hit back at critics of Apple’s environmental record by touting the company’s progress in reducing toxins and boosting recycling.

In a 1,900 word memorandum posted to the computer maker’s website, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive outlined the company’s progress on a number of environmental fronts, including its reductions in the use of lead and other toxins in its iPods and Macintosh computers.

Electronic waste has emerged as a hot-button issue in recent months as environmental groups take aim at the toxins contained in computer equipment, such as the lead in cathode ray tubes and the arsenic contained in specialty glass.

“Upon investigating Apple’s current practices and progress towards these goals, I was surprised to learn that in many cases Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas,” Mr Jobs said.

He apologised for the company’s lack of transparency around its environmental record and said Apple would do more to communicate about its green initiatives to shareholders and customers.

“It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about the things we have just accomplished. Unfortunately this policy has left our customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s desires and plans to become greener.,” Mr Jobs said.

“Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they’re right to do so. They want us to be a leader in this area, just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we’re changing our policy.”

Apple’s change in policy came a week before the company’s shareholders are scheduled to vote on a proposal that would require the company to study the feasibility of eliminating certain chemicals from its products. Apple has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal.

It comes amid a campaign being waged against the company by Greenpeace, the environmental activist group, which has accused the computer maker of giving short-shrift to green initiatives.

Mr Jobs on Wednesday responded to the criticisms by flagging progress in reducing Apple’s use of lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury - all common toxins found in computer components.

He also highlighted Apple’s progress in boosting recycling and cutting out toxins contained in plastics and certain flame retardants.

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