At CES this week, environmental watchdog group Greenpeace named the greenest consumer electronics products. Asus, Acer, HP and Samsung earned some of the highest marks, while Wipro and Dell earned some of the lowest. Apple refused to participate, but still earned an unofficial nod for its chemical free MacBook Pro.
Greenpeace invited 21 leading electronics companies to participate in this, the third Green Electronics Survey. Eighteen agreed. The ultimate goal is to encourage consumer electronics manufacturers to stop making products that rely on hazardous chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) among other poisonous compounds. However Greenpeace also rated devices on power management, use of recycled materials and how well they kept their environmental promises. The survey also looks at companies’ e-waste procedures (do they collect, for free, used products and recycle them responsibly?)
“Some companies are doing more talk than walk,” said Greenpeace’s Casey Harrell on Thursday at a press conference announcing the report.
The greenest product of them all, among the seven categories in the survey (notebooks, desktops, netbooks, smartphones, mobile phones, monitors and TVs) is the Asus VW-247H-HF computer monitor with a score of 7.5 out of 10. The Samsung GT-S75550 is the greenest mobile phone (7.03); the Sony Ericcson Aspen smartphone is the greenest smart phone (6.21); the HP Compaq 6005 Pro Ultra-slim landed on the top of the desktop category (6.06); the Asus UL30A notebook computer topped that list (5.59); and Acer has the greenest netbook with its TM8172 (5.08). The Sharp LC-52SE1 was named the greenest TV (6.46).
While manufacturers still have a way to go in removing toxic chemicals from their products, things are improving, says Greenpeace’s Renee Blanchard. For instance, all of the mobile phones in the survey are PVC-free, whereas only 80% were in 2008. Likewise, four smartphones of six are PVC free, as are two TVs and two desktops.
The two next big areas that need work are for the makers of these products to use more recycled products in their new wares and to provide businesses and consumers with responsible avenues of recycling. Those go hand in hand. “Progress needs to be made in increasing the amount of recycled materials in the products, but that will be easier once companies stop using highly toxic materials,” Blanchard said.
“It’s not an issue that can be solved by any one company,” adds Harrell. Companies need strong and easy take-back systems and they need to audit the e-waste providers, he says. Greenpeace wants manufacturers to push for federal laws that impose better recycling standards.
E-waste is a growing and dangerous problem, with the US having no laws that forbid export of toxic e-waste, says Blanchard. Without such laws, e-waste scams are prevalent.
Disreputable companies collect used electronics, refurbish what they can and then ship the toxic stuff overseas where it often poisons the land and water supply in developing countries, says Kimberly Henning, vice president of business development for Gazelle. Gazelle is an auction site where people can sell their used consumer electronics, and send those items that do not sell to Gazelle for responsible recycling. Gazelle is one of the companies that powers consumer electronics take-back programs from manufacturers and retailers including eBay and Walmart, Henning says.