Greenpeace clashes with Apple over toxic waste

The environmental group has drawn up a ranking of which hardware vendors are working hard at being green and which are lagging behind
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

The environmental track records of Apple and Lenovo have been singled out for criticism by campaigning group Greenpeace in a report into the toxic chemicals used by the technology industry.

The Guide to Greener Electronics, published late last week, is designed to help consumers and businesses gauge how green tech vendors are when planning a purchase. Rather than focusing on recycling, the group claims that the toxic chemicals used by tech suppliers should be the main issue considered by anyone wanting to buy green.

"The scoring is weighted  more heavily on the use of toxic substances in production rather than criteria on recycling because until the use of harmful substances is eliminated in products, it is impossible to secure 'safe', toxic-free recycling," Greenpeace said in a statement.

Nokia and Dell came out top in the ranking, with the Finnish handset manufacturer leading the way on eliminating toxic chemicals by stopping its use of  PVC in 2005. Dell has also set ambitious targets for cutting its use of PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), according to Greenpeace.

Lenovo and Apple faired less well, with the Chinese PC manufacturer ranked last. Greenpeace claimed that Lenovo earned some points for its chemicals management and voluntary take-back programmes but needs to do better on all criteria.

A Lenovo spokesperson claimed the company meets worldwide environmental regulations and argued that Greenpeace's ranking doesn't accurately reflect its environmental record.

"We sell our products primarily to commercial enterprises, not consumers, and we offer recycling services on a bid basis to any commercial customer with whom we do business. Those bid services do not appear on our Web site, and company Web sites were noted as one of the main sources for Greenpeace's evaluation," the spokesperson added.

The environmental group also claimed that Apple could do more to match its environmental record with its hip and trendy image. "It is disappointing to see Apple ranking so low in the overall guide. They are meant to be world leaders in design and marketing, they should be world leaders in environmental innovation."

A spokesperson for Apple disagreed with Greenpeace's rating and the criteria it had chosen. "Apple has a strong environmental track record and has led the industry in restricting and banning toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium, as well as many BFRs (brominated flame retardants). We have also completely eliminated CRT monitors, which contain lead, from our product line," the spokesperson said.

The EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, which limits the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, went into force in the UK on the 1 July and should go some way towards forcing the IT industry to clean up its act.

In July, Palm was forced to stop shipping its Treo 650 smartphone in Europe, because it violated the RoHS directive. 


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