Greener Electronics Guide has been our answer to getting the
electronics industry to face up to the problem of
e-waste. We want manufacturers to take responsibility for the
unprotected child labourers who scavenge the mountains of cast-off
gadgets created by our gizmo-loving ways.
The guide ranks the 14 top manufacturers of personal computers
and mobile phones according to their policies and practice on toxic
chemicals and recycling. In the first edition of the Guide from
August 2006, the average score was 4/10. Now every company scores
above 5/10. Click on the version numbers to see how the rankings
Race to the top
Every company ranked bottom of previous editions have made
improvements to move up. Lenovo was bottom of the first guide but
rapidly improved its chemicals policy and launched a global
takeback program. Apple was bottom of the next two editions but
pledged in May to improve its chemical policy and increase its
recycling rate. Sony was bottom of the June 07 edition but has
since launched in the US the most advanced takeback and recycling
programme of any company.
The biggest movers in the latest guide are Sony and LG
Electronics. Both have had their penalty points lifted for leaving
a US industry coalition that lobbies against producer
responsibility for recycling discarded products.
Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner, has
been amazed at the progress the Guide has helped create: "There is
still a long way to go for some, but the momentum is extremely
encouraging. What is very exciting is that while the guide focuses
on brand leaders, the improvements can be seen industry wide".
Even companies not featured in the ranking have improved
policies in the race to be greener. PC maker Asus has improved it
environmental policies and an Indian edition of the ranking has
lead to improvements from the two biggest Indian computer
companies, WIPRO and HCL.
Hewlett Packard (HP) is the only company who has fallen in each
ranking - over taken by competitors, and weakening its support for
a strong takeback policy. It also still needs to provide concrete
timelines for the complete elimination of hazardous chemicals.
Panasonic now languishes at the bottom, despite launching some
products free from the most hazardous chemicals; they fail to deal
with old products responsibly. Apple, while not losing points, has
dropped to 12th position. Its newly launched iPhone, and new iMac
and iPod lines, still include the worst toxic chemicals - allowing
its competitors to race ahead.
As well as driving improvements in company policy there are many
improvements in company practice since the first ranking. More
companies now have free take back programs making it easier to
recycle your old electronics. More products are available without
the worst toxic chemicals like PVC (vinyl) plastic and brominated
flame retardants (BFRs). Motorola and LG have joined Nokia and Sony
Ericsson in selling phones without these toxic chemicals. Sony has
a wide range of products including models of the Walkman,
camcorders and a digital camera that are partially BFR and PVC
free. Panasonic lists examples of PVC free products that include
DVD players, home cinemas, and video players.
Publicly comparing the performance of these companies has proven
a highly effective way to bring about quick improvements in their
environmental policies. However, we are still waiting for the
companies to act on their promises to market a computer completely
free of the worst toxic chemicals.