“Sense and Simplicity” became the slogan of the Dutch electronics giant, Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV – better known as Philips – in 2004. But when it comes to taking responsibility for the electronic waste (e-waste) generated by their products, we don’t think they’ve been showing much of either. So, this morning we paid them a visit – at their head offices in Denmark, India Russia and the Netherlands, demanding they adopt a sensible policy and simply stop dumping e-waste.
Greenpeace returns Philips' electronic waste to the company's headquarters in Amsterdam.
Greenpeace activists delivered 500 Philips television sets and
100 pieces of Philips electronic equipment to the company's
headquarters in Amsterdam. The e-waste was obtained from an e-waste
trader; this very same e-waste would most probably have ended up on
a scrapyard in countries like China, India or in Africa.
Without responsible recycling and voluntary take-back systems,
when electronic equipment reaches the end of its useful life, most
of it ends up in household waste or is exported - often illegally -
to the developing world to deal with. When this discarded e-waste
is dumped in Africa, or broken up in the informal recycling yards
of Asia, it exposes people and the environment to the cocktail of
toxic chemicals still being used to make electronic products.
Unlike other major electronics companies, Philips has no
take-back policies for its end-of-life products unless forced to do
so by legislation. Unsurprisingly, Philips has been lobbying hard
against legislation that makes companies directly responsible for
the costs of recycling and safe disposal of their own products.
And, on top of all that, Philips has even publicly stated that it
is the customer who should pay. The Dutch public beg to differ: an
opinion poll carried out in the Netherlands revealed that 94
percent of the public believe that electronics producers should
take responsibility for collecting their own electronic waste.
Other companies, such as Sony, Samsung and Nokia, have
introduced take-back schemes, even in those countries where they're
not required to do so by law. And, as a bonus, voluntary take-back
systems encourage producers to phase out the use of toxic
substances in their products at the design stage - recycling
becomes safer and the costs to companies for recycling end-of-life
products is reduced.
This is the sense and simplicity we'd like to see Philips
demonstrate! Philips needs a full, global programme of take-back
schemes in all countries where its products are sold. Especially in
Russia, India, Argentina and Thailand - countries that are
currently discussing national e-waste legislation - so now is an
ideal time for Philips to take a lead in supporting the principles
of individual producer responsibility.
Back in Amsterdam, following our actions, Philips' CEO Gerard
Kleisterlee agreed to talk to our campaigners. We told him that if
Philips continues to refuse to live up to its responsibilities, the
result will be a huge amount of hazardous e-waste spreading around
the globe, and not just on their office door steps. He promised
he'd get back to us by the 15 of July and tell us what Philips
intends to do.
We'll be waiting. And it would be good, in the meantime, if
Philips remembers its old slogan: "Let's Make Things Better!"
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