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Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics

Greenpeace recently released version 12 of their Guide to Green Electronics.  This guide,as previously discussed on this site, gives consumer's information regarding what computer and mobile device companies are practicing green standards.  So why is it important to consider ecology impace of technology?  Well, hundreds of thousands of obsolete computers and mobile phones are dumped in landfills or burned in smelters every year. Thousands more are exported from industrialised nations to countries in Asia. Worker's scrap these products and in the process are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals and poisons.  So not only is it harmful to the envrionment, but it also affects innocent people throughout the world.

Here are some more of the health hazards of chemicals in electronics provided by Greenpeace.

· Some brominated flame retardants, used in circuit boards and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment.  Long-term exposure can lead to impaired learning and memory functions. They can also interfere with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioural problems.

· As much as 1000 tonnes of a brominated flame retardant called TBBPA was used to manufacture 674 million mobile phones in 2004. This chemical has been linked to neurotoxicity. 

· The cathode ray tubes (CTR) in monitors sold worldwide in 2002 contain approximately 10,000 tonnes of lead. Exposure to lead can cause intellectual impairment in children and can damage the nervous, blood and reproductive systems in adults.

· Cadmium, used in rechargeable computer batteries, contacts and switches and in older CRTs, can bioaccumulate in the environment and is highly toxic, primarily affecting the kidneys and bones.

· Mercury, used in lighting devices for flat screen displays can damage the brain and central nervous system, particularly during early development.

· Compounds of hexavalent chromium, used in the production of metal housings, are highly toxic and human carcinogens.

· Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a chlorinated plastic used in some electronics products and for insulation on wires and cables.  Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration (or simply burning). These chemicals are highly persistent in the environment and many are toxic even in very low concentrations.

So Greenpeace has put forward a guide to what companies are doing to actually tackle the problem.  These companies are graded on a number of factors including design life cycle, take back and recycling efforts, energy efficency, use of non-toxic alternatives and reduction of carbon imprints.  The most succesful in achieving greener outcomes were Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.  At the bottom of the list was succesful game manufacturer Nintendo.  To view the entire listings  and accompanying exlpanations please click here.  Also, click on the image above to be taken to interactive representation of how the major companies have faired over the last twelve versions.