Greenpeace Slams PC Makers Over Toxic PCs

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Dell, Lenovo and HP are still using toxic BFRs and PVC, and won’t honour a promise to phase them out this year, according to Greenpeace

Environmental group Greenpeace has criticised HP, Lenovo, and Dell for failing to deliver on as previous commitments to eliminate use of toxic substances from their products.

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In the latest update to the campaigner’s Guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace says the world’s leading PC makers have failed to meet promises over vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Despite promising to eliminate them by the end of 2009, they are still using them, and will not meet the promised date.

“The phase-out of toxic substances is an urgent priority to help tackle the growing tide of e-waste. Still, producers only go green when they feel public and consumer pressure to do so. That’s why we campaign,” the environmental charity said in a statement.

According to Greenpeace, PC makers have made some progress when it comes use of PVC and BFRs but the measures do not go far enough.
“Dell produces a desktop, a notebook and several models of monitors that have a reduced use of PVC and BFRs, and a few monitor models that are free of these substances,” Greenpeace stated. “Lenovo has two models available that are PVC and BFR-free. HP is trailing behind, and has yet to bring out models with even a reduced use of PVC and BFRs.”

Although there are still 8 months for the companies to meet the 2009 deadline, Greenpeace claims that Dell appear to have withdrawn its timeline for eliminating BFT and PVC, while Lenovo has extended its commitment to 2010. HP still lists a commitment to 2009 on its site but Greenpeace said that it contacted the PC maker and learned that the deadline no longer stands

However, despite previous criticism of its environmental record, Greenpeace said that Apple has done more than any other PC maker to eliminate use of the toxic PVC and BFRs.

“Apple doesn’t have certified PVC-free power cords yet, but in every other way its products are now PVC and BFR free. If Apple can do it, then so should the other leading PC manufacturers,” Greenpeace stated.

According to Greenpeace, several forms of BFRs have toxic properties and are resistant to degradation in the environment and are able to build up in animals and humans causing potential health problems.

As for PVC, the campaigner claims that the production of the substance can lead to the creation of hazardous waste which can even be carcinogenic.

HP claims to have eliminated “more than 95 percent of the BFRs used in the external case parts of its products” as far back as 1995. For its part Dell claims that it is actively trying to “avoid the use of BFRs” when possible. “Dell will continue to strive to meet our public goals to eliminate the use of environmentally sensitive materials in our products, as well as continue to evaluate the viability of halogen-free flame retardant alternatives,” the PC maker states on its website.

As well as criticising some IT companies for failing to act over toxic substances, Greenpeace is also calling on IT leaders to do more to shape government policy over climate change.

“Right now we can’t see anybody in the IT industry using their access to politicians — and their influence as major employers and wealth creators. So we’ll soon launch an international “who’s who” and “who’s doing what” of top IT execs we want to see leading the way,” the campaigning group stated.