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Asia

Electronic Waste: Bane of the Developing World

Greenpeace, an international organisation working towards the protection of the environment, launched its Guide to Greener Electronics on Tuesday. It’s a ranking of Asian electronic companies manufacturing products in the most eco friendly way. Greenpeace screened electronic products in four broad categories -- mobile phones, personal computers, television sets, and game consoles.

Every year more and more electronic products are discarded globally

Every year more and more electronic products are discarded globally

The electronic industry must address the environmental impact of its operations and products on the climate as well as toxic chemicals and electronic waste, also called e-waste, says Iza Kruszewska.

“What we’ve chosen is market leaders of mobile phones, PCs, TVs, and game consoles. And that’s the basis for selecting companies we choose to rank -- they are market leaders in these four product types,’’ she says. ‘’We rank companies based on their chemicals policies -- use of toxic chemicals in their products. Also on their policies regarding e-waste. In the future, in June, we’ll be adding energy criteria to take a more holistic approach to environmental policy and practice by companies.”

Greener electronics

Two companies – Samsung and Toshiba – jointly made it to the top of the list, with a score of 7.7 out of 10.

“Both companies score well on the toxic chemicals and e-waste criteria. Both companies have products in the market that are free of the worst chemicals -- Poly Vinyl Fluorides, vinyl plastics,’’ says Kruszewska, explaining why both these companies received the top honour. ‘’They also have a good policy on producer responsibility -- the producers take the responsibility of recycling products once discarded by customers.”

Motorola, another electronics giant, improved its ranking from the 14 th to the 12th position for running a successful take back and recycling operation in the Philippines, Thailand and India. Nokia made it to the third spot, missing the top position for failing to improve recycling services in India and Russia.

And Nintendo lurked at the bottom of the rankings with a paltry score of 0.3 for its poor environmental record.

Menace of e-waste

Experts warn that electronic waste is fast becoming a polluting hazard in the developing world. They emphasize that to curb the menace that electronic companies have to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products - from production, through manufacture and to the very end of their products’ lives.

Developing countries like India and China are signatories of the Basel Ban Amendment of 1995, which outlaws the export of hazardous waste from industrialized nations to developing nations. But still the dumping of electronic waste in these countries continues unabated.

“A lot our e-waste from Europe often ends up in the developing world – and most often, illegally. It is exported under the guise of reuse, but the reality is that it is e-waste even before it leaves Europe,’’ says Kruszewska. ‘’E-waste gets exported from USA and Canada as well. And the problem is toxic substances in the electronic waste and the way recycling takes place in the developing world.”

Until now the Guide has ranked companies’ policies and practices on toxic chemicals and electronic-waste, future editions will see the criteria expanded to include energy consumption, as well as a tightened criteria on toxic chemicals and e-waste. Greenpeace will rank brands against new energy criteria to encourage the industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

  • Date 18.03.2008
  • Author Anuj Chopra 18/03/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCv
  • Date 18.03.2008
  • Author Anuj Chopra 18/03/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCv