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Electronics Product Stewardship Canada

The lure of High Definition is keeping me interested in purchasing a camcorder that I can mount on the motorcycle or remove for shooting the places I visit and the people I meet. Lifecycle sustainability is an important factor in my choice and it seems that the major companies are becoming aware of this. I searched for an environmental report comparing major electronics companies that manufacture camcorders I am interested in purchasing, especially Sony, Canon, JVC and Panasonic. I found some interesting information but no side-by-side comparison.

In Canada we are lucky to have non-profit societies that are working hard on the problem of electronics disposal. Electronics Product Stewardship Canada is developing an “industry led solution” to see electronic waste properly managed. Of the four companies I am interested in, only JVC is not a member of this coalition. The organization is nationwide and has influenced policy in British Columbia so that electronics can be recycled here. Unfortunately, there is a large list of items that are not accepted, so I have to keep storing my broken VCRs until the program expands.

As part of the “Live More Lightly Project” I hope to raise awareness of these programs so that more people will utilize them and keep dangerous materials out of landfill sites. There is a fee to re-cycle electronics but there are depots throughout the province and a handy map to locate a depot near you. Other provinces have similar programs and I encourage you to use them.

Re-use of working electronics is always preferred to disposal and organizations such as Free Geek will accept equipment that is not state-of-the-art, refurbish it and donate it to a needy charity or sell it in their computer thrift store.

Some companies are putting more effort into product stewardship and environmental programs and this will influence my purchasing decision. See a short description of each company’s efforts below.

Sony

The top contender right now is Sony. Their camcorders have very competitive features and they are the only manufacturer that offers a sportcase to protect the camera. (see previous research on water-resistant cases at the bottom of this page)

Environmental rating seems quite good as they have an Eco-mini-site that explains they will collect ALL Sony products, including televisions, at no charge for recycling. Sony Canada, in partnership with Global Electric Electronic Processing Inc. (GEEP), accepts surplus electronics at depots throughout Canada or will accept materials shipped to them. The recycler must pay the shipping or drop off at the depot, but all the extraction of materials is done in Canada by specialized machinery. Some electronic “recyclers” merely ship the discarded materials offshore where precious metals are extracted and the rest is dumped in a landfill. With GEEP the disassembly into raw materials is complete and those materials are marketed.

In addition, they have a notebook trade-in program where previously loved Sony notebooks can be traded-in for a discount on new notebook computers in the Sony-Style stores. Other small items can also be dropped off at a nearby store, but larger items must go to a depot.

Sony has also been working to develop greener products and administrative practices. One of the most innovative offerings is the sponsorship of youth education through EcoKids, a fun website for young people that concentrates on environmental education and programs.

Canon

The Clean Earth Campaign is outlined on the Canon Group website and a more detailed document is available for download here. The Environmental Charter is basically a one page pledge by the president of Canon Canada, Joe Adachi, to follow eight general directives to improve environmental performance. This demonstrates an awareness of environmental issues, but is not giving any specifics as one would expect in a.pdf download. Why download a one-page document that could be displayed on the website? I expected a detailed report that explained some of the Canon Group initiatives.

Panasonic

Designing more environmentally friendly products and cleaning up their factories is the focus of the Panasonic environmental webpage. The Green Plan 2010 site gives more details of project sponsorship and other initiatives. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic parent) is a member of Electronics Product Stewardship Canada but like Canon, is not offering any special incentives to recycle products. They are making a conscious effort to live more lightly and create products that are less harmful to produce, use less power in use and are easier to recycle. These efforts are detailed on their global site.

Report Card

The report card on lifecycle management shows that Sony is doing the most to re-cycle and has the slickest promotion package detailing their efforts. Canon and Panasonic are encouraging recycling by being a member of Electronics Product Stewardship Canada, but are placing the cost of recycling on the end user. All three companies are pledging to clean up their factories, develop less wasteful products and encourage their employees to adopt environmentally sound practices. Each one sponsors worthy charitable organizations and has reserved a portion of their website to advertise their initiatives.

Electronics companies are realizing that environmental performance will influence consumer decision making in purchasing products. They have all invested in environmental initiative and have green logos and special pages to inform consumers. In Canada, Sony seems to be making the most effort to recycle existing products and that gives them a bit of an edge. The other two companies may be doing more for the future and possibly have cleaner factories or more environmentally friendly materials sources, but the information is difficult to obtain.

At this point, Sony has a small advantage in re-cycling, but I am happy to learn that all three of these companies are supporting efforts to “Live More Lightly”.

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