While there is a growing awareness of the ecological footprints of our food, clothing, and shoes, fewer people take the time to think about where and how electronics are produced. Phones, computers, and tablets are all reliant on dangerous mining practices and hazardous chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and phthalates (used as softeners in PVC), with negative health implications for humans and the environment, according to a recent Greenpeace report.
In 2006, Greenpeace launched the Rethink-IT campaign to “challenge the IT sector to take responsibility for its rapidly growing footprint on the planet.” They focus on three critical impact areas: energy, resource consumption, and chemicals. Each year Greenpeace releases their Guide to Greener Electronics, which provides an analysis of what the world’s leading consumer electronics companies are doing to ensure they are heading in a more environmentally conscious direction.
From 2005 to 2007, although almost all major consumer electronics companies made public commitments to phase out BFRs and PVC, only Apple and Google have succeeded in completely following through as of 2017. The majority of companies have failed in these efforts. The report authors also concluded there is a need for greater transparency regarding what chemicals are used throughout the electronics manufacturing supply chain in order to understand hazardous chemical exposures for workers, communities, and consumers.