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ChemSec Electronics Production | October 06, 2009

Removing Chlorine / Bromine based substances from electronics; Apple & Sony Ericsson lead way

The joint report of ChemSec and Clean Production Action <em>Greening Consumer Electronics: Moving Away from Bromine and Chlorine</em> features seven companies who have engineered environmental solutions that negate the need for most - or in some cases all - uses of brominated and chlorinated chemicals.
“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,” says 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 that is toxic in very low amounts, along with other problematic compounds, are unintentionally released into the environment during the burning and smelting of electronic waste.

The current recycling and waste infrastructure to safely reuse and recycle obsolete equipment 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.

Since 2003 the European Union limits the use of certain heavy metals and brominated flame retardants in electronic products through the RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). During 2008-2010 the RoHS Directive is being revised. RoHS has been adopted globally and is considered one of the most important environmental standards in the electronics sector.

Despite initial concerns that substance restrictions in RoHS would disrupt the development of new and improved consumer electronic products, leading companies are now moving beyond RoHS compliance by restricting additional bromine and chlorine based compounds in consumer electronic products.

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 (US) – Apple established an innovative program that restricts the use of nearly all bromine and chlorine compounds across all their 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 that are free of BFRs and most uses of PVC.

Sony Ericsson (UK) – 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% BFR free and will have no PVC components by the end of 2009.

Seagate (US) – 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 plastic material manufacturer is among the first to offer a complete portfolio of engineering plastics that are free of bromine and chlorine. They 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 (US) – Nan Ya, a 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 (US) – This semiconductor manufacturer was the first in the industry to supply Apple and others with bromine-free chips.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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