Greenpeace: IT giants must turn greener

Many vendors are still failing to take steps to clean up their act, and legislation such as the WEEE directive won’t do enough, says pressure group

Global cooperation is the only way to solve the growing problem of environmental damage caused by the IT industry, said Greenpeace on Friday.

Speaking the day after it slammed HP for dragging its feet with clearing toxic chemicals, including BFRs from the production line, Greenpeace said most vendors are failing to meet even the most basic environmental requirements.

Aside from phasing out BFRs, Greenpeace has called for an end to the solvents — used to clean circuit boards during the manufacturing process — and PVC, which is used mainly in cable and wiring.

Nokia, Sony and Samsung are among the companies who have made a commitment to phase out these harmful toxic chemicals. Sony is starting to use a bio-based plastic it has made from genetically engineered starch, Greenpeace said, but most companies still fall short of the most basic requirements.

Japan is currently leading the world on environmentally sound manufacturing, according to Greenpeace. Its Green Purchasing Law requires government bodies to take a lead in procuring environmentally friendly products and materials.

Iza Kruszewska, toxic campaigner at Greenpeace, said IT companies who planned to comply with the WEEE directive should also apply those standards globally.

"This is a double standard. If you are going to make more environmentally friendly computers you should be doing this for customers around the world. Why treat those customers as second class?" she said.

The WEEE directive makes equipment vendors responsible for ensuring that products they sell are disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

Despite having only recently decided to remove BFRs from its computer casing, HP is one of the only IT companies to call for a global law on environmental manufacturing standards, said Kruszewska. "We are not backing this because calling for a global law is forcing this issue to the bottom of most government's agendas," she added.

The group have had more success enforcing 'green' IT manufacturing at a regional level. The complications of trying to enforce legislation on a global level can prove too time-consuming and unproductive, Kruszewska explained.

Greenpeace also recently condemned IT manufacturers for endangering the health of workers employed in breaking down old kit.

Workers in India and China employed in the recycling of mostly Western electronic devices were being exposed to potentially hazardous toxic substances due to the careless manufacturing practices of technology makers, it claimed.