Monday, 10 January 2011 13:07

Consumer Electronics Trend Toward Sustainability

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For anyone who's ever bought an item sealed in plastic clamshell packaging, it's no secret how difficult it is to open. The shocker is that some manufacturers are finally heeding our frustration and ditching the clamshell -- not just because it's annoying but largely due to the significant cost savings and reduction in environmental impact. When electronic toothbrush manufacturer Philips switched to recycled-cardboard packaging, plastic mass was reduced from 60g to 2g, shipping became "much less expensive," and the company saw a 60% improvement in approval ratings. This is just one trend highlighting the shift in private business to rework products to be more sustainable, as reported in the Consumer Electronics Association 2010 Sustainability Report. The document showcases the best in business when it comes to consumer electronics practices and offers case studies from manufacturers and retailers that focus on energy use, packaging, e-waste and other environmental issues the industry needs to tackle. The report holds up the CarbonFree® Certified Motorola CITRUS™ smartphone as an example of sustainable product design. The CITRUS features a housing made from 25% post-consumer recycled plastic, which saves 20% of the energy needed to make the phone housing when compared with standard plastic. It also results in less landfill waste and encourages more recycling by creating a market for used materials. Positive environmental impacts measured in the report include:
  • U.S. sales of EPEAT-certified desktops, laptops, and displays grew nearly 10 percent in 2009, to a total of 48.5 million units.
  • Currently, more than 27,000 consumer electronic product models meet ENERGY STAR specifications set by the EPA and Department of Energy.
  • In 2009, CEA estimated that the electronics recycling efforts of manufacturers and retailers in the U.S. diverted more than 200 million pounds of electronics from landfills.
  • In 2009, the 10 largest CE companies by global revenue donated $882 million, in both cash and products, to support activities that enhance local environments, social well-being, and/or economic development.
The growing commonality of sustainable practices in business is an undeniable win for the environment but, as Greenbiz.com editor Matthew Wheeland explains, "These changes -- which are taking place across the electronics industry -- are not happening because of their environmental benefits, but because of the business benefits. And that makes the green improvements even more likely to continue."
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