Electronic companies flunk take-back test

20 Oct 2010

A new report card that grades computer, television, printer and game console companies on their efforts to take back and recycle their old products has singled out which companies are underachievers.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition recycling report, released in advance of the US holiday buying season, examined electronic companies across the board and most of them made the recycling grade but others, namely printer companies and some TV companies, performed poorly.

The highest marks went to Dell, Samsung and Asus, while other companies displayed a decline in achievement – including Brother, Kodak, Lexmark, Philips, Funai, Epson and RCA (now owned by Technicolor).

Responsible recycling

The overall performance of companies was poor 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.

“Announcing that you have a take-back 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 take-back 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,” Schneider said.

Dishonourable mention

Despite their achievement in receiving a ‘B’, technology giant Samsung also received a “dishonourable mention” in the report; due to concerns over its occupational health record in Korean manufacturing plants where many young workers have been diagnosed with blood cancers, resulting in numerous deaths.

Apart from HP, all printer companies flunked the report card for varying reasons, such as supplying no take-back programme for old equipment (Brother and Kodak) or do not provide physical take back (Epson, Lexmark, and Canon).

“If you don’t offer physical collection sites or events, you are not serious about your take-back 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 co-ordinator of the electronics TakeBack Coalition.

“Most of the printer companies simply offer mail-back recycling programs, but statistics show that people won’t mail back larger products like printers.”

This year’s report card included televisions, computers, printers and game console companies. A toner take-back report card is in the works.

Companies were graded on whether their products were being recycled responsibly, how they were promoting loop recycling, transparency in reporting, and positions on government policies related to recycling.

For an explanation of how the companies were graded, click here.