5 Ways The Electronics Industry Is Greening Up Its Act

Consumer demand for better, faster, more beautiful technology has exploded over the past decade. The electronics industry has been all too happy to oblige, churning out phones and tablets with break-neck speed. Unfortunately, the thrill of what these devices can do is overshadowed but what their creation (and disposal) is doing to the planet.

As more consumers begin to consider the impact of their technology choices, the industry has been forced to take action. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently released its 2013 Sustainability Report, which tracks the industry’s green efforts throughout a consumer electronics  product’s entire lifecycle. A follow up to the CEA’s 2010 industry assessment, the latest report shows slow but significant progress on several different fronts.

electronics factory

Image via Steve Jurveston

The CEA 2013 Sustainability Report contains over two dozen case studies from various electronics companies such as Best Buy, Sharp and FulTech Solutions. Examination of the case studies illuminates both challenges and accomplishments in the industry’s efforts to become more environmentally-friendly.

Highlights demonstrate green trends within the industry, including:

  1. Greener designs: Companies such as Samsung Electronics — which in one year more than quadrupled the percentage of recycled plastics in its products — are achieving meaningful results through greener product designs and use of more sustainable materials for their electronics.
  2. Green packaging: Smaller, lighter and more efficient product package designs using recycled materials require fewer resources to produce. In 2012, LG surveyed suppliers to create a new database that list the recycled pulp content of each paper stock used for packaging TV and mobile phone products.
  3. More energy efficient products: CE companies are leveraging breakthrough technology to reduce power requirements in devices big and small. Thoughtful product design has enabled Panasonic to bring to market an exceptionally energy-efficient Blu-ray disc recorder, the DMR-BRT220. Its annual power consumption is only 18.9 kWh — or less than 2.2 watts per hour of operation. To support key metrics for energy use, CEA also organized a multi-stakeholder group to revise test procedures for measuring power consumption for televisions and set-top boxes.
  4. eCycling: In 2011, CEA announced the eCycling Leadership Initiative to increase the amount of recycled consumer electronics to one billion pounds annually by 2016. So far, the CE industry is on track recycling 585 million pounds of products in 2012. The CE industry also believes that the quality of recycling is just as critical as the quantity, and is committed to using vendors that employ only the highest recycling standards, including third-party certification systems R2 and e-Stewards.
  5. Consumer education: CEA’s GreenerGadgets.org website informs consumers about how they can make smarter choices to save energy, reduce waste and ensure responsible recycling at end-of-life.

“Consumers increasingly want innovative, eco-friendly products, and our industry is really delivering,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “Leveraging the brightest minds in our industry and working collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders, CEA and our industry partners continue to launch initiatives and forge partnerships that provide innovative and sustainable solutions for consumers, communities and our planet.”

The full report is available at CE.org/sustainability.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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