The latest Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics has been published, and makes fascinating reading for anyone geek who really cares about the effect that technology has upon the environment.
Greenpeace ranks the leading mobile and PC manufacturers on their global policies and practice with regards to eliminating harmful chemicals as well as taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers. Until the use of toxic substances within technology is completely eliminated, it is completely impossible to have completely safe recycling. That is the harsh truth, and the reason that Greenpeace wants to see major electronics companies cleaning up their act.
It is also the reason why the points system used to calculate the league tables within the guide weight more heavily those awarded for corporate practice on chemicals than criteria for recycling. After all, by substituting harmful chemicals in the production process there are all sorts of knock on benefits from preventing worker exposure to the substances and the contamination of communities close to the production facilities, through to the prevention of leaching chemicals such as brominated flame retardants during use. As Greenpeace so properly point out, the presence of toxic substances in electronics perpetuates the toxic cycle “during reprocessing of electronic waste and by using contaminated secondary materials to make new products.”
So, where any two companies score the same overall total, it will be the one with the higher chemicals score that ends up ranked higher. Talking of which, let’s quickly look at those criteria before revealing the results:
Chemicals policy and practice
- A chemicals policy based on the Precautionary Principle
- Chemicals Management: supply chain management of chemicals via e.g. banned/restricted substance lists, policy to identify problematic substances for future elimination/substitution
- Timeline for phasing out all use of vinyl plastic (PVC)
- Timeline for phasing out all use of brominated flame retardants (not just those banned by EU’s RoHS Directive)
- PVC- and BFR-free models of electronic products on the market.
Recycling policy and practice
- Support for individual (financial) producer responsibility – which producers finance the end-of-life management of their products, by taking back and reusing/recycling their own-brand discarded products.
- Provides voluntary takeback and recycling in every country where it sells its products, even in the absence of national laws requiring Producer Responsibility for electronic waste.
- Provides clear information for individual customers on takeback and recycling services in all countries where there are sales of its products.
- Reports on amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected and recycled.
OK, so on to the results. And Nokia has been knocked off the top spot by Lenovo which takes the honors as the cleanest of the manufacturers, with Sony Ericsson, Dell and Samsung trailing behind. Sony and LG did not do so well, though, with both being penalized with penalties for operating what Greenpeace refer to as double standards on their e-waste takeback policies on a global basis. Apple also came in for criticism because it has made no real progress since the first guide was published way back in August 2006.
Indeed, it remains firmly in last place leaving a very sour taste in the mouth.