October 19, 2010
| by Steven Castle
How are TV, computer and printer companies doing on their electronics recycling programs?
The Electronics TakeBack Coalition has released a new report card that grades computer, television, printer and game console companies on their efforts to take back and recycle their old products. Most of the manufacturers passed muster, but several printer companies and some TV makers failed.
The highest marks go to Dell, Samsung and Asus, but there were still some companies with failing grades, including Brother, Kodak, Lexmark, Epson and others. Samsung also got a “dishonorable mention” because of concerns about their occupational health record at manufacturing plants in Korea where many young workers have been diagnosed with blood cancers and several have already died.
“Announcing that you have a takeback program really isn’t enough,” said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, and vice chair of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. “Most electronics companies have some kind of takeback program—but what we are looking at is whether these programs are actually effective in collecting their old products, and are making sure they are not just being exported to developing nations.”
Key grading criteria are:
- How extensive are the takeback programs, especially in states that don’t have strong laws requiring them to do so.
- How many collection sites are in each state?
- How much volume is coming back?
- Are products being recycled responsibly (not exported).
- What are the companies doing to promote reuse and closed loop recycling (in which recycled materials are used to make other products)?
- Transparency in reporting.
- Positions on government policies related to recycling.
The printer industry generally scored the lowest marks—all failed except for HP.
“If you don’t offer physical collection sites or events, you are not serious about your takeback program. With so many cheap consumer printers being practically disposable these days, the printer companies should be doing a lot more to make sure they get their old equipment back,” said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. “Most of the printer companies simply offer mailback recycling programs, but statistics show that people won’t mail back larger products like printers,”
TV Makers Miss the Grade
TV manufacturers did not fare well in the grading, either. Samsung earned a B for its free national takeback program with 861 sites, while LG and Sharp got Cs. Sony earned a D for its shrinking network of collection sites, according to the Takeback Coalition, while Funai, Hitachi, JVC, Philips, Sanyo and RCA failed. Retailers Best Buy and Walmart earned Cs, while Target flunked.
Companies generally performed poorly in the “responsible recycling” category, which requires transparency in recycling policies, vendor requirements and vendors used, as well as giving the most credit to companies whose recyclers are qualified under the e-Stewards program. The e-Stewards program evaluates electronics recyclers against the highest standards in the industry, including a ban on exporting toxic e-waste (included untested and non-working products) to developing countries. The program has evolved from a voluntary “Pledge” program into a certification program with a comprehensive standard and accredited third-party auditors who certify whether a recycler conforms to the standard. You can find e-Stewards here.
The report card was released in advance of the holiday buying season, when consumers typically purchase a large volume of electronics in the United States.
“People are increasingly looking for ‘green’ electronics, and convenient and responsible recycling programs are a significant part of that picture,” said Schneider. “Consumers should consider a company’s recycling program when they decide what to buy.”
Link to Electronics Recycling Report Card: www.electronicstakeback.com/reportcard.htm
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates