Green Embedded Electronics

‘Green electronics’ is an ideal that refers to environmentally friendly digital devices. Before the idea was brought forward, a considerable percentage of components involved in the manufacturing process of most electronic and digital devices were very toxic. Chemicals such as lead and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were commonly used in the manufacture of items like LCD screens and laptop computers. The green electronics initiative is often seen as an extension of a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan because of its environmental core ideas.

The concept is currently being pushed by many environmentalist organizations, most notable of which is Greenpeace International. In August 2006, Greenpeace released a list of the top ten ranked corporations that were actively reducing toxic components from within their products and improving the recycling process for their merchandise. Mobile phone manufacturer Nokia and computer giant Dell share the top spot on the said list.

Step One: Reduction of Chemicals

The first step in the green electronics initiative is to cut down on toxic components used in manufacturing products. Not only do such chemicals pose a direct threat against the consumers; they also pose a threat to others should the device be disposed of improperly. The toxic substances, for example, could leach into the soil at a landfill, reach the water supply and cause widespread health problems. While such incidents have not yet been reported, many believe that they are still possible scenarios.

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Companies like the gadget-maker, Panasonic, have already taken steps towards making more environmentally friendly and less toxic devices. They have replaced the soldering material used in the manufacturing process for their devices. Panasonic developed their own replacement for lead, which is often used to solder parts together.

There are, however, counter-motivations for companies to adopt a green standpoint. Developing alternatives and new techniques, such as what Panasonic has done, costs a lot of resources. At the same time, green technology has not yet been shown to be more profitable than traditional technology.

Step Two: Recycle

The green electronics initiative is also dependent on the method of disposal employed by an electronics company. Greenpeace is urging the electronics industry to take back old and outdated devices so as to minimize their improper disposal. For this model, Greenpeace is touting mobile manufacturer Motorola, which has been actively collecting and accepting old mobile phones from consumers. Despite their efforts, Motorola still gets a very insignificant number of old mobile phones back.

Due to the great time and effort involved in enforcing a green electronics initiative, however, many companies have set a deadline that is two to five years from the initial release of the Greenpeace green electronics scorecard.

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