Greenpeace slams Nintendo, offers others faint praise

Greenpeace released its eighth quarterly Guide to Greener Electronics Wednesday, raising its standards and handing out poor marks to all of the 18 companies it reviewed.

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, file
Greenpeace found that Nintendo's products, such as this Wii gaming console, contain toxic chemicals.

Greenpeace released its eighth quarterly Guide to Greener Electronics Wednesday, raising its standards and handing out poor marks to all of the 18 companies it reviewed.

The report [PDF] ranks top manufacturers of mobile phones, computers, televisions and game consoles according to their policies and practices on toxic chemicals and their take-back programs.

Coming out on top is Sony Ericsson, which scored 5.1 out of 10 points. Greenpeace praised the company for having eliminated PVCs from all of its products, and for banning antimony, beryllium, and phthalates from new models launched since January 2008. But the environmental group criticized the company for its lack of programs that allow consumers to return old products for recycling. According to Greenpeace, Sony Ericsson had a recycling rate of only one percent to three percent.

Scoring last was Nintendo. Greenpeace said that the video game company, which scored only 0.8 points out of 10, has not given a timeline for phasing out PVCs or brominated flame retardants, and that it provides very little information on recycling.

Nokia would have come in first place with a score of 5.8, but Greenpeace docked them a point for "corporate misbehavior". The company claims to have a recycling program in India, but Greenpeace says that this program is "not functioning on the ground."

Since its previous report [PDF], released in March, Greenpeace has tightened its standards on e-waste and toxic chemical ratings on energy efficiency and on each company's greenhouse gas emissions. The best performers for energy efficiency are Sony Ericsson and Apple; Phillips did the best on greenhouse gases.

Now facing higher expectations, most of the companies saw their scores plummet. In the March report, Samsung and Toshiba won top honors, with scores of 7.7 out of 10. Now those companies score 4.5 and 4.3, respectively.

In a press release, Greenpeace campaigner Iza Kruszewska noted the mixed performance of electronics manufacturers.

Electronics giants pay attention to environmental performance on certain issues, while ignoring others that are just as important. Philips, for example, scores well on chemicals and energy criteria, but scores a zero on e-waste since it has no global take-back polices. Philips would score higher if it took responsibility for its own branded e-waste and established equitable global take-back schemes.

If handled properly, electronic waste, or e-waste, can serve as a valuable source for raw materials, but it can also be a major source of toxins. E-waste represents only two percent of the garbage in US landfills, but it accounts for 70 percent of overall toxic waste, according to Mother Jones magazine.

But that could change. Eight US states have passed laws requiring electronics manufacturers to take back and recycle their products. And last year, the United Nations launched an initiative to set global standards for e-waste recycling.

Greenpeace has seen some success in its public shaming of companies. The environmental group claimed victory last year in its campaign to pressure Apple to clean up its act. Its campaign, which included a spoof of Apple’s website, prompted a detailed response from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who pledged to change his company’s manufacturing and recycling policies.

But Greenpeace singled out Apple for not improving the environmental performance of its new version of the iPhone. In this video released last year released in 2007, Greenpeace blasts Apple for packing the iPhone with bromine, chlorine, and phthalates:

(Footage courtesy of Greenpeace.)

Greenpeace used a similar tactic when taking on game console manufacturers. As you can see in the video below, Greenpeace found that the Sony's Playstation 3, Microsoft's XBox 360, and Nintendo's Wii each tested positive for various hazardous chemicals. Greenpeace also showed that game manufacturers could easily replace these components with toxic-free materials.

(Footage courtesy of Greenpeace.)

Greenpeace hopes that it can provoke companies to race each other toward meeting its green criteria. In its press release, the group says:

With most companies now scoring less than 5/10, only a company that rises to the challenge of phasing out toxic chemicals, increasing the recycling rate of e-waste, using recycled materials in new products and reducing their impact on climate change can seriously hope to make the claim of being green.
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