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E-waste hall of shame

Page - October 31, 2006
Consumer electronics has a dirty side unmentioned in slick advertising. What happens to old electronics products containing hazardous chemicals? Growing amounts end up dumped for unsafe, dirty recycling by hand in China and India.

 In just one visit to a Chinese scrap yard we discovered numerous global brands. To help solve the problem companies need to clean up - by removing hazardous chemicals from products and take back - be responsible for entire product lifecycle including re-use, safe recycling or responsible disposal. Sony, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG have made a start by committing to clean up their products. The brands pictured below have committed to neither of these steps:


"We recognize that by integrating sound environmental, health and safety management practices into all aspects of our business, we can offer technologically innovative products and services while conserving and enhancing resources for future generations." (source)

How does allowing their products to be dumped in China fit with conserving and enhancing resources for future generations?

Also Apple apparently "strives for continuous improvement in our environmental, health and safety management systems and in the environmental quality of our products, processes and services."

It just doesn't strive as hard as other companies to remove hazardous chemicals from it products.


"IBM's corporate policy on environmental affairs, first issued in 1971, is supported by the company's global Environmental management system, which is the key element of company's efforts to achieve results consistent with environmental leadership and ensures the company is vigilant in protecting the environment across all of its operations worldwide." (source)

More finely worded corporate policies. But in just one day at a Chinese e-waste scrapping yard we found IBM computers in piles of computer junk for recycling by hand.

IBM claims to be: "committed to environmental leadership in all of its business activities, from its operations to the design of its products and use of its technology." 

But IBM has not even taken the first step of committing to removing hazardous chemicals to tackle the e-waste problem.  How exactly is that showing environmental leadership?


"Throughout product development, Toshiba assesses the environmental impacts of product usage while striving to maximize recovery of resources and recycling of end-of-use products." (source)

But just like Apple, Toshiba just doesn't strive as hard as other companies to remove toxic chemicals from it products.


"In 2001, based on Matsushita's (Panasonic) Environmental Statement, we announced our new Environmental Vision, aimed at building a recycling-oriented society." (source)

Visions are fine but the reality in 2005 is that people are still recycling Panasonic products by hand in China in terrible conditions. Panasonic has yet to take even the first step of committing to remove hazardous chemicals from its products to make recycling easier and safer.


"As a global citizen, Acer is committed to reducing and preventing harmful effects on the environment, hence promoting a healthy place for working and living."

Maybe if Acer bosses had to spend a day taking apart their products by hand in a Chinese e-waste scrap yard they might be more inclined to commit to remove hazardous chemicals from their products. Acer has yet to match similar commitments from other Asian companies like Samsung, Sony and LG.