7 Electronics Companies Minimize Bromine, Chlorine

Two nonprofit environmental organizations, ChemSec and Clean Production Action (CPA), feature seven companies in a new research report, "Greening Consumer Electronics: Moving Away from Bromine and Chlorine."

"These seven companies demonstrate that there are less toxic and still cost-effective alternatives to substances of high concern that do not compromise performance or reliability," said CPA Project Director Alexandra McPherson. "They are well positioned to gain competitive advantage in a marketplace and regulatory environment increasingly sensitive to the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products."

High volume uses of bromine and chlorine in flame retardant and plastic resin applications such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gained worldwide attention when scientific studies demonstrated their link to the formation of highly toxic dioxin compounds. Dioxin, a potent human carcinogen, and other problematic compounds are unintentionally released into the environment during the burning and smelting of electronic waste.

The current recycling and waste infrastructure is insufficient for the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Furthermore, much of the waste is increasingly shipped to developing countries with even less capacity for appropriate waste management. Many studies document the accumulation of these widespread pollutants in air, water, soil, and sediment, where they are increasingly ingested by humans and animals.

"This report provides critical guidance for those companies who have yet to make this material transition," said Nardono Nimpuno, senior policy adviser at ChemSec. "Reduction of bromine and chlorine is a critical demonstration of environmental leadership on toxic use reduction within the broader sustainability lens of improving the full lifecycle impacts of products. It is our goal to use this information to leverage these changes across the entire electronics sector."

The following seven companies featured in this report demonstrate best industry practices and provide critical guidance for the development of environmentally robust and sound industry- wide standards and policies:

  • Apple (U.S.) – Apple established a program that restricts the use of nearly all bromine and chlorine compounds across all its product lines. As such, Apple now offers a wide range of PVC- and BFR-free consumer products including iPhones and iPods, as well as computers free of BFRs and most uses of PVC.
  • Sony Ericsson (U.K.) – Sony Ericsson is not only removing substances of concern from their products but also taking on the complicated task of establishing full chemical inventories for all their product lines. The company's products are now 99.9 percent BFR free and will have no PVC components by the end of 2009.
  • Seagate (U.S.) – The largest disk drive manufacturer in the world is now creating new disk drives that no longer use chlorine- and bromine-based chemistries. This success was largely facilitated by the company's full material disclosure system.
  • DSM Engineering Plastics (Netherlands) – This major plastic material manufacturer is among the first to offer a complete portfolio of engineering plastics that are free of bromine and chlorine. It developed and produced a new high-temperature polyamide 4T polymer with bromine-free grades for connectors and sockets as well as a thermoplastic co-polyester that can be used as a replacement for PVC-based wire and cables.
  • Nan Ya (Taiwan) and Indium (U.S.) – Nan Ya, a major laminate manufacturer, and Indium, a high-end manufacturer of solder paste and flux, both overcame major technical challenges to produce bromine- and chlorine-free components for printed circuit boards that met the same reliability standards of their halogenated counter parts.
  • Silicon Storage Technology, Inc. (U.S.) – This semiconductor manufacturer was the first in the industry to supply Apple and others with bromine-free chips.
The report, produced independently by CPA, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to providing strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products, and the European-based ChemSec (The International Chemical Secretariat), a nonprofit working to highlight the need to phase out hazardous substances and bridge the gap between science, business and policy-makers.

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