I remember seeing a photo once, a few years back, about computer waste in African countries. A few years later my brother mentioned the Greenpeace green electronics ranking, which is the most reliable indicator of environmentally friendliness of various technological companies.
To get a company’s rank, they examine their attitude towards energy consumption and reduction of greenhouse gases, the eco-friendliness of their products and the sustainability of these operations in the long-term in relation to climate change.
In their November 2011 analysis of 15 companies, HP came on top as a result of its sustainable operations, followed by Dell, Nokia and Apple. Seeing apple in the top 5 was a great ease on my conscience, being a big apple fan myself, especially as they were ranked last back in April, 2007. The interesting thing is that they still received a fourth-place ranking despite receiving no points for one or two criteria. Their most successful marks were in product energy efficiency, voluntary take-back and avoidance of hazardous substances. HP had a good overall score in sustainable operations, but did not fare so well in use of recycled plastics or product life-cycle. Nokia, the former leader in the green electronics rankings, scores well in product energy efficiency but a remarkable zero points on recycled plastics, product life-cycle and green energy policies.
A lot of companies are penalised on the Greenpeace rankings for making promises but not sticking to them, with Dell receiving the brunt of criticisms over the past few years. Even though the rankings are given different points (out of 3, 5 or 8), the Greenpeace rankings place a large emphasis on energy (out of 8) and less on green products themselves.
The sad news thing is that HP may be on top, but only with a 5.9 out of 10, and everyone from Nokia onwards scores less than 5.
The hotspots for e-waste are Ghana and Nigeria in Africa, and India and Pakistan in Asia. Here, mainly children will work on melting away the wires, to collect the small bits of gold that are used in their production. Greenpeace have released several reports (such as this one on electronic waste in Ghana), trying to highlight the plight of the poor that work these scrap fields.
I’m not one to unconditionally back Greenpeace, as they can be a bit radical, but it is something to think about when you talk to friends who buy the latest version of every gadget. Personally, I’m pleased my macbook still works perfectly after 5 years with a battery life of over 2 hours.