November 27, 2001

See background info

Contacts: David Wood - GRRN
(608) 270-0940
(David Wood)
Ted Smith or Leslie Byster
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
(408) 287-6707 -

New Computer Report Card shows
U.S. companies fail environmental screen
New national Computer TakeBack Campaign announced

Madison, WI - In a nationally coordinated action, groups across the U.S. have joined together to release the 3rd Annual Computer Report Card and to launch the Computer TakeBack Campaign. The Computer Report Card provides consumers, local governments, and activists with a tool to measure electronics equipment and the environmental performance of companies that produce computers. The Computer Report Card reveals that US companies are continuing to lag further behind their overseas competitors in clean production, health-related issues and producing environmentally superior products.

"E-waste (electronic waste) is one of the fastest growing and most toxic waste streams -- threatening human health and the environment," said Ted Smith, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and National Coordinator of the Computer TakeBack Campaign.

In response to this growing environmental threat, dozens of organizations across the country have formed the Computer TakeBack Campaign to promote producer responsibility and clean production in the personal computer and consumer electronics industry. The Campaign provides a forum for consumers and local governments to voice their concern for an appropriate, effective solution to the electronics waste issue.

"Many companies in countries throughout Europe and Asia are implementing extended producer responsibility programs in response to government regulations," said David Wood of the Grassroots Recycling Network and Organizing Director of the Computer TakeBack Campaign. "Having producers assume responsibility for their products requires them to internalize costs they now pass on to taxpayers and local governments. Producer take back requirements also create a powerful incentive to reduce such costs by designing products that are cleaner and safer, more durable and reusable, and easier to disassemble and recycle."

The Campaign's Report Card reveals several troubling double standards in the global production of computers: between countries, among companies, and even within companies doing business in different areas of the world. Over the past year, several environmental and health initiatives with important impacts on the high-tech sector have come forth in Europe and Japan. In stark contrast, there have been no major initiatives in the U.S.

"Consumers in the US are receiving second-class treatment from high-tech companies that think they're first-class global companies," said David Wood of the GrassRoots Recycling Network.

The Computer Report Card results indicate that companies maintain disparate practices by meeting higher standards outside of the U.S. Yet these same companies do not transfer these practices back home:

  • Since 1989, IBM has offered product take-back programs in certain European countries free of charge where required by law. By contrast, IBM announced a U.S. take-back effort earlier this year, but charge $29.99 per unit-- a clear disincentive for consumer participation.
  • Apple Computer of Germany provides a take-back program where customers can return electronic appliances at no charge due to legislative requirements, but offer no such program to US consumers.
  • In a similar case, Sony Electronics and other partners unveiled a limited 5-year program in October 2000 to collect and recycle electronics from residential customers in certain parts of the US. On the other hand, the same company has a full scale take-back program for computer monitors in Germany.
  • Finally, the European Parliament recently voted to phase out the use of some of the most hazardous substances in the electronics industry, as has Japan. As a result, some Japanese companies offer lead free products or products without brominated flame retardants. US companies are lagging well behind.

"Companies in Europe and Asia are detoxifying their products and taking them back," said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project. "The Campaign urges U.S. companies to plug into Extended Producer Responsibility."

In particular, a widening chasm exists among practices of companies in Japan and those in the US. Seven out of the top ten ranked companies in this year's Computer Report Card are based in Japan. On the overall scores, with a few exceptions, most US companies scored near the bottom of the pack.

Report Card Leaders and Laggards
Leaders Scores   Laggards Scores
Canon Japan 35   Hitachi Japan 20
Toshiba Japan 33   Oki Japan 20
IBM US 32   Seiko Epson Japan 19
Fujitsu Japan 30   Compaq US 17
Sony Japan 30   Matsushita/Panasonic Japan 17
NEC Japan 27   Dell US 16
Hewlett -Packard US 26   Samsung Korea 15
Brother Japan 26   Sharp Japan 14
Apple US 25   Micron US 11
        Gateway US 9
        Philips Dutch 9
        Lexmark US 6
        ViewSonic US 5
        Acer Taiwan 2
        Wyse Technologies Taiwan 2
        e-machines US 0
        Daewoo Korea 0
        Lucky Goldstar Korea 0
        AST Taiwan 0

One of the key issues is the critical need to implement responsible electronic recycling and management programs--and to have producers accept that responsibility. Currently, most "obsolete" electronic products are not recycled, and the expense of collecting, managing and disposing of discarded electronics is usually borne by taxpayer-funded government programs, primarily at the local level. The Computer TakeBack Campaign's ultimate aims are fostering an ethic of producer responsibility, clean production, pollution prevention and waste avoidance through a hierarchy of practices, including source reduction, reuse, re-manufacturing and recycling.

Report Card Recommendations

  1. For Consumers:
    Make use of your purchasing power! It is one of the strongest tools for initiating change in corporate behavior. Buy a new computer only if you really need to and when you do, buy the most environmentally sound option - look for the eco-labels at
  2. For Governments:
    Learn from your counterparts in Europe and Japan and pass laws to establish take back programs and Extended Producer Responsibility, and phase out the most toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals. Use your institutional buying power to promote environmentally preferable purchasing.
  3. For Computer Companies:
    Follow the lead of your global competitors. Accept full life cycle responsibility for your products. Include clear and concise disclosures about the toxics in your products and how consumers can access take-back programs.

The Computer Report Card is being released in over one dozen metropolitan areas, including Boston, MA; NY, NY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; Montpelier, VT, Philadelphia, PA; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Austin, TX; Boulder, CO; Portland, OR, Austin, TX, Providence, RI; and San Jose, CA.

Founding members of the Computer TakeBack Campaign include: As You Sow Foundation, Clean Production Network, Clean Water Action, Communications Workers of America, GrassRoots Recycling Network, INFORM, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Materials for the Future Foundation, Mercury Policy Project, and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. For more information on the Computer Report Card, the Campaign Platform and its participants, visit us on the web at or

The Report Card scores are out of a possible maximum score of 68, based on a 0-4 rating applied to each of 17 different criteria relating to the companies' practices in areas of: hazardous materials practices; producer take back; occupational safety and health; and, ease of access to information. Raw data was obtained from company web sites. Once the data were compiled and analyzed, each company received information specific to it for review, comment and correction.

The full text of the report is available on-line at


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