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Greenpeace: Electronics Cut Chemicals, Recycling Still Poor

Electronics companies have made significant environmental improvements to their products in the last two years but still have some ways to go, according to a Greenpeace report.

Rankings by the non-profit found that more electronics products than ever are free of potentially hazardous chemicals, and most products evaluated meet or exceed Energy Star efficiency standards.

But Greenpeace said companies’ “lifecycle management”, including use of recycled plastics, is still wanting. Take-back practices have shown some improvement, Greenpeace said.

The organization’s third Green Electronics Survey ranked desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, monitors, mobile phones, smartphones and televisions.

Laptops performed particularly poorly, with the best scoring product in that category achieving only 67% of possible points. The best-scoring monitor, in contrast, scored 87%.

“This means that the best scoring notebook includes fewer of all the available green features for notebooks, while the best scoring monitor has less to learn from its competitors,” the report noted.

Greenpeace said electronic companies are clearly phasing out the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) – substances for which Greenpeace served penalty points in previous editions of the rankings. All mobile phones ranked were PVC-free.

None of the laptops ranked were completely PVC or BFR-free, but Greenpeace noted that Apple’s new MacBook Pro is free of those chemicals. Apple chose not to participate in the survey.

“As Apple’s MacBook managed to eliminate these last uses of PVC and become the first 100% PVC-free notebook computer, there is no longer a technical hurdle for the rest of the industry to overcome,” Greenpeace said.

The vast majority of products in the survey meet Energy Star standards for energy efficiency. But some products still lagged far behind, with the worst-performing smartphone only achieving 13% of possible energy efficiency points.

Greenpeace said the use of post-consumer recycled plastic is still not standard practice for laptops, netbooks and smartphones, though monitors, desktops and mobile phones are doing better in this area. Sony Ericsson won full marks on this measure for its Elm phone, which uses 60% post-industrial recycled plastic.

But Greenpeace said it was concerned that the minimum electronic warranties never go beyond three years, with most laptops, netbooks and TVs offering only one-year contracts.

Last month Ericsson finished in second place for its climate change efforts in Greenpeace’s Cool IT rankings.

Another Greenpeace report last month said that electronics retailer Best Buy was among several major companies “failing our forests”.

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3 thoughts on “Greenpeace: Electronics Cut Chemicals, Recycling Still Poor

  1. I would like to hear more about who is doing a good job helping recycle these products. Is GreenPeace helping? No.

    Even though Best Buy is the only retailer doing a decent job taking back this stuff they are seen in a negative light in this article.

    Articles like these, and organizations like GreenPeace need to address the solution as well merely addressing the problem.

  2. Enforcing longer warranties would seem to be the best method for improving the green credentials of computer manufacturers. Technically speaking there is no reason why computers cannot be designed that will last 5 years (if they are upgradable that figure could be even higher).

  3. By my opinion this activity should be supported by the government as well to get higher efficiency standards. They can use either higher taxation for companies that don’t use recycling components in their products or those companies have to set up special fund to support recycling companies. The good news is that the environment improvement begun at all.

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