As electronic waste continues to grow at alarming and unsustainable rates, one can conclude that Greenpeace’s decades long campaign to rate electronics manufacturers is an utter failure.
But Greenpeace continues to honor specific manufacturers in its annual rating of these companies that haven’t taken any measurable steps to reduce their global waste production.
Why? The answer lies in the extremist group’s obsession with PVC and other materials – and its refusal to confront the real issues regarding electronics waste buildup around the world.
The 2017 edition of Greenpeace’s annual “Guide to Greener Electronics” predictably distorts the facts on PVC – and recommends ill-conceived proposals that exacerbate the impact discarded electronics products have on our environment.
Greenpeace’s agenda-driven opposition to PVC is well documented. For decades, the extremist organization has misled the public about PVC, and tried to force companies to capitulate to its demands to remove the material from their products.
The group’s electronics guide is no different, as it compels manufacturers who wish to receive a star review that they must avoid using PVC altogether.
But that very advice is contributing to the overwhelming number of electronics that are being thrown away in record numbers – often in landfills around the world– each and every year. From 2014 to 2016, electronics waste (also known as “e-waste”) increased eight percent, totaling nearly 100 billion pounds. And that figure is expected to rise another 17 percent by 2021.
The most effective way this trend can reverse itself is if electronics companies are incentivized to reuse their own plastic. Companies must be encouraged to establish recovery programs where they can recycle their parts and materials. This would lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of e-waste we generate every year, and would help curb the buildup of electronics products destined for landfills across the country, and around the world.
Instead, Greenpeace recommendations focus on restricting materials, and dissuading companies from using PVC– a material with proven life-cycle environmental advantages that can be recovered and reused to minimize landfill waste. It seems Greenpeace would rather see electronics manufacturers use inferior materials that have nowhere near the longevity, durability, recyclability, and cost-efficiency, of PVC.
That’s not empty rhetoric. One major electronics producer discontinued using PVC in its power cords after enduring intimidation by Greenpeace – only to find that the replacement material they chose was not nearly as strong. The products would break repeatedly, affecting millions of customers, where many users simply threw them away – forcing these customers to prematurely replace their failed power cords.
How, exactly, does that serve the best interests of the environment?
Today, some companies go to extreme lengths to use post-consumer plastic simply to appease groups like Greenpeace, when such practices yield a negative environmental result. Some electronics manufacturers ship ground-up plastic water bottles half way around the world just to they can say they use the material in their products. The carbon footprint of such policies is enormous and entirely unsustainable. And it would make far more sense for these companies to establish programs where they are able to reuse their own materials, including PVC, again and again.
But Greenpeace’s ideological opposition toward PVC and other safe substances incapacitates any such rational or practical thinking, even when it stands to make a positive environmental impact.
If Greenpeace really wanted to confront the e-waste problem, it would call on manufacturers to set their material take-back rate equal to the growth of global e-waste production – which would create a neutral environmental impact going forward.
Instead, the organization continues to pressure companies to change material composition, which hasn’t addressed the growing problem of e-waste around the world. Greenpeace prefers to scare readers with disingenuous scenarios about PVC disposal. And the electronics guide tries to incite hysteria about burning electronics that might contain PVC – when it clearly knows that such illegal open-burning practices emit a plethora of persistent and bio-accumulative toxins from a host of materials in these devices, whether PVC is present or not. The idea that eliminating PVC would somehow make uncontrolled burning safer is entirely false and remarkably deceiving.
But what’s most puzzling is the fact that the electronics guide praises certain companies, rewarding them with a favorable rating, for adopting Greenpeace’s illogical policies when these very manufacturers haven’t made a calculable contribution toward reducing their e-waste generation.
The statistics confirm that Greenpeace’s policies on e-waste haven’t achieved any real progress. Greenpeace first began its electronics campaign two decades ago. And with e-waste expected to rise another 17 percent over the next three years, the group’s fixation on PVC – and refusal to examine the larger issues of landfill diversion – prove its recommendations have failed to address the core problem.
If Greenpeace is truly committed to reducing the impact of e-waste, it would put aside its anti-PVC agenda – and confront the real threats regarding the growing amount of e-waste in our planet’s landfills.