Computer companies breaking promises on toxins

A computer on fire
Many major PC manufacturers have backtracked on pledges to remove dangerous toxic substances from their computers
Greenpeace's most recent green electrics guide shows that PC manufacturers are still not meeting their obligations in terms of phasing out toxic substances

The world’s leading computer companies are still scoring poorly on promises to clean up their act, according to the latest edition of Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics.

Despite pledges to remove hazardous chemicals from their products, PC manufacturers Hewlett Packard (HP), Dell and Lenovo have all failed to live up to promises to remove polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame-retardants (BFR) from their products by the end of this year.

‘Greenpeace takes voluntary commitments very seriously and holds companies accountable for their promises,’ said Greenpeace’s international toxics campaigner Tom Dowdall. ‘There are no excuses for backtracking, and no reason for these companies not to have PCs free of PVC and BFRs now.’

PVC is the single most environmentally damaging plastic, and when burned can form dioxin, a known carcinogen. BFRs do not degrade easily, have a harmful effect on the environment and can build up inside humans and animals.

Updated every three months, the green electrics guide reveals mobile phone companies still topping the chart, with Nokia on 7.5 out of 10. Congratulated for leading the field in terms of toxic phase-out, as well as for its voluntary mobile phone collection programme, there is still scope for improvement in recycling terms, according to Greenpeace. Samsung and Sony Ericsson take second and third place for their commitments to reduce absolute emissions and better product efficiency reporting respectively.

Dell remains at 13 for back-tracking on its promised toxic phase-out. HP is in 14th place with 3.5 points and ‘no products on the market free of toxic substances’ – it had promised to remove PVC and BFRs from its products by 2009, but has now pushed the phase-out back to 2011. Microsoft’s poor recycling policy puts it in 15th place, and Lenovo drops two places to 16th for back-tracking. Neither Lenovo nor Dell has a timeline for phasing out PVC or BFRs.

At the bottom of the pile is Nintendo, which nevertheless is up to 1 from 0.8 for making its consoles’ internal wiring PVC-free.

Showing the way for computer manufacturers – though still only in 11th position, with 4.7 out of 10 – is Apple. Despite the claims of rivals, its new Macs are virtually PVC-free and wholly BFR-free.

‘It’s ridiculous that some companies, such as Dell, are busy challenging Apple’s advertising claims when Apple is clearly leading its competitors on toxics phase out. All PC companies should be concentrating on matching or beating Apple’s lead on this important issue,’ said Dowdall.

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