Consumers interested in buying toxin-free electronics should consider purchasing products made by Nokia and Dell, says the environmental group Greenpeace in its new "Guide to Greener Electronics," which ranks companies on their use of harmful chemicals and electronic waste recycling.
Illinois-based Motorola and Hong Kong's Lenovo (which makes the IBM Thinkpad) were deemed the most environmentally destructive, while computer makers Acer and Apple also scored near the bottom of the list.
"Only Dell and Nokia scraped a barely respectable score while Apple, Motorola, and Lenovo flunked the test," Greenpeace said in a statement marking the guide's release.
"We recommend people support the changes made by Dell and Nokia to become more environmentally friendly," the group's Zeina al-Hajj told OneWorld. "They're much better compared to those on the bottom of the list."
Third place went to Hewlett-Packard, followed by Sony Ericsson (4th), Samsung (5th), Sony (6th), LG Electronics (7th), Panasonic (8th), Toshiba (9th), Fujitsu Siemens Computers (10th), Apple (11th), Acer (12th), and Motorola (13th).
Nokia won particular praise for introducing products free of toxic chemicals.
Since the end of 2005, all new models of its cellular telephones are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a form of plastic used in insulating wires that releases cancer-causing dioxin when its incinerated.
Also, starting in 2007, all new Nokia components will be free of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Those chemicals, which are often used in circuit board and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment. Long-term exposure, Greenpeace says, can lead to impaired learning and memory functions.
BFRs also interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormone systems. Exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioral problems.
Greenpeace's Zeina al-Hajj was especially critical of Motorola.
"Motorola was the only mobile phone company we looked at that doesn't have a plan for future change of the use of chemicals," she said. "Motorola's competitors--Nokia, LG, Sony Ericsson--have made a commitment and are starting to move. Motorola doesn't even have a policy to eventually stop using hazardous chemicals."
The wireless company replied in a statement. "Motorola's policy is to meet or exceed all applicable environmental, health, safety, legal, and other requirements in the countries in which we do business," it said. "We believe the [Greenpeace] evaluation provides an incomplete picture of the company's true environmental performance."
A similar statement came from Lenovo, the world's worst major computer manufacturer, according to Greenpeace's ranking. The environmental group said Lenovo doesn't even keep track of how many toxins it uses or monitor its subcontractors to see how the waste is disposed.
"Lenovo is committed to environmental leadership in all of its business activities, from its operations to the design of its products and use of its technology," the company said. "Lenovo's corporate policy on environmental affairs is supported by the company's global environmental management system, which is the key element of the company's efforts to achieve results consistent with environmental leadership and ensures the company is vigilant in protecting the environment across all of its operations worldwide."
The Greenpeace report also raised concerns about the recycling of used computer components. Most manufacturers contract with third parties in China or India, which dump the often toxic e-waste in the ground with little or no safety precautions.
"Only HP has made its recycling plan public," al-Hajj said. "And they are only recycling 10 percent of their waste."
Greenpeace is optimistic its report will help improve the situation.
"We did this to give consumers an idea of the companies' environmental policies and their plans for the future," al-Hajj said.
Companies have the opportunity to move towards a greener ranking as the guide will be updated every quarter, the environmental group said. "However, penalty points will be deducted from overall scores if we find a company lying, practicing double standards, or [engaging in] other corporate misconduct."
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