Tech giants still using hazardous chemicals in phones, tablets and PCs, Greenpeace claims

Major new report released just as the firms launch new handsets

Technology giants including Samsung, Sony and Panasonic are among the firms still using hazardous chemicals that are contributing to a “growing environmental crisis”, a major new report has found.

While there has been some progress in recent years, the latest Greenpeace Green Gadgets report shows that leading consumer electronics companies are continuing to use toxic chemicals in smartphones, televisions, tablets, computer and cables.

The report comes on the eve of Europe’s biggest consumer technology show opening in Germany on Friday. Major technology firms are set to descend on Berlin or the IFA Technology Show to launch hundreds of new smartphones, tablets and computers.

Sales of electronic gadgets are set to reach 2.5 billion this year. But the Greenpeace report on the progress of 16 leading technology found that up to 50 per cent of smartphones use hazardous substances including Polyvinylchloride (PVC) and Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and that electronics companies are failing to address their growing energy footprint.

PVC and BFRs are common in many devices and are often released during the recycling of so-called e-waste. This process often involves more toxic chemicals, the burning of components and generally takes place as a “backyard” activity in the developing world, far from where these devices were sold and used.

Greenpeace highlighted Samsung, the world’s largest biggest electronics company, for criticism. It said the firm is failing to meet previously stated elimination goals for its products beyond its phone range and had joined other firms in backtracking on commitments.

Apple was praised for reducing its impact and becoming the only company to totally eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs from its entire product range.

However Greenpeace attacked Microsoft for dropping a previous “phase-out commitment” and Amazon for “failing to provide any information to the public”.

“Apple has shown us a glimpse of a greener future, leading the sector on toxic-free products and starting to address the huge environmental footprint of electronics manufacturing,” said Greenpeace UK’s head of IT, Andrew Hatton.

“But the industry still has a long road ahead of it before they’re giving customers the level of efficiency and sustainability they are asking for.”

He added: “The innovative electronics industry is perfectly placed to reimagine their manufacturing and marketing processes. They’re designing our future, and we need that future to be a lot cleaner and greener than where we are now.”

Spokespeople for Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Amazon and Microsoft did not respond for requests for comment.

Toxic technology

Greenpeace is campaigning for the elimination of two particularly toxic chemicals, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BRFs), used in smartphones, televisions, tablets and computers. They have long been linked to long-term health and environmental damage.

Several BFRs are known to have toxic properties and are able to bioaccumulate, or build up, in animals and humans. They are most dangerous during manufacture and when they are disposed of by incineration, smelting and open burning.

During disposal they can release bromine as hydrogen bromide and brominated dioxins. Long-term exposure has been linked to kidney and brain damage.

PVC, on the other hand, presents a risk to human health and the environment throughout its lifecycle from manufacture to disposal.

During manufacture, it requires the use of hazardous raw materials, including a vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) which is explosive, highly toxic and carcinogenic.

When PVC does eventually get disposed of as a waste product, it is often burned, releasing chlorine and toxic additives. In turn, exposure to these can lead to chronic beryllium disease (CBD), an incurable and debilitating lung disease.

ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power