A guide to greener electronics
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We applaud Philips for releasing the first TV free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). The Econova TV puts Philips on track to meet its commitment to phase out these hazardous substances by the end the year, well ahead of other TV manufacturers.
There is a growing gulf between companies that are consistently innovating and leading by releasing greener products and companies that just make big promises and excuses. As they say in the software business: you've either shipped or you haven't.
By launching a PVC- and BFR-free TV, Philips has overcome the technical hurdles to removing these toxic substances from this product group. There is now no excuse for other TV manufacturers not to follow.
The dangers of PVC and BFRs
Some BFRs, used in circuit boards and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment. Long-term exposure can lead to impaired learning and memory functions. They can also interfere with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioural problems.
PVC is a plastic used in some electronics products and for insulation on wires and cables. Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration (or simply burning). These chemicals are highly persistent in the environment and many are toxic even in very low concentrations.
Lots more PVC- and BFR-free products
New products free of PVC and BFRs have been put on the shelves by Acer, the Indian companies Wipro and HCL, and HP, which now has several lines of notebooks, desktops and most recently a PVC-free printer. In contrast, Toshiba, LGE, Samsung, Dell and Lenovo still have no whole PC product lines free from these substances.
Toshiba is served a second penalty point this year for misleading its customers about its commitments and a first penalty point is imposed on Microsoft for backtracking on commitments to remove these toxic substances. Several other companies continue to be weighed down by penalty points for failing to meet their phase out commitments, including LGE, Samsung, Dell and Lenovo.
Apple takes the biggest drop, not because it has lost any points but because several other companies have overtaken it. LGE and Toshiba, both previously amongst the leaders, now take 14th and 16th place, showing that in this fast moving and innovative sector that standing still is just not good enough.
Although scores on Waste and Recycling show the least progress overall, Panasonic is rewarded for initiating voluntary take-back and recycling of its TVs in India, the first programme of its kind for TVs outside the OECD and another first for TVs. However, the industry as a whole is failing to expand current take-back programmes to achieve global reach.
Panasonic is stepping up to the challenge of taking responsibility for its end-of-life TVs - but further company initiatives to take-back and recycle e-waste outside the rich world are desperately needed; Panasonic's programme could jump start this process.
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