Greener Electronics Guide Updated

Updated October 2010

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Feature story - October 26, 2010
As people across the country embrace mobile culture, and 'getting connected' is the focus of attention accross Africa, the latest Greener Electronics guide gives some interesting insights into how environmentally-minded 'tech' companies really are.

Guide to Greener Electronics, October 2010

Download the full guide here.

Top of the list are Nokia and Sony Ericsson, in 1st and 2nd place respectivly, for producing products free of the most hazardous substances, including PVC/BFRs, antimony, beryllium, and phthlates.

Greener TV

Philips gets a round of applause for releasing the first TV free of 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.  

What becomes clear from the report is that there is a growing divide between companies that are consistently innovating and leading by releasing greener products, and those that simply make big promises. 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 their lead.

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, Wipro, 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 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.

HP, Samsung and Lenovo are the biggest climbers in this edition. Samsung climbs to 5th place from 13th, despite retaining a penalty points for backtracking on its commitment to eliminate PVC and BFRs.   

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, standing still is just not good enough.

E-waste and Recycling

Although scores on E-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.

This is unfortunate for Africa where the issue of e-waste dumping is an important concern. Until brands take responsibility for their waste on a global level, we will continue to see electronics dumping taking place in Africa and Asia. Hopefully Panasonic's programme in India will get other companies to start taking responsibility for the dumping of their products in countries like Nigeria and Ghana. For more ont his topic, watch the video below, or download this document.