As global consumption of cellphones and other devices soars, industry searches for ways to decrease the threat of chemical components to people and the environment.
On a Wednesday in late February 2010, Hewlett-Packard hosted an unusual training session at its offices in Fort Collins, Colorado. The technology company had decided to eliminate polyvinyl chloride, or PVC — a type of plastic that releases harmful chemicals during production and when burned after disposal — from its power cords. But it realized that to get PVC out of its products, it was going to have to get its suppliers to do so, too. This training was an opportunity for those supplying power cables to the company (now known as HP) to learn about a tool that could help identify alternatives to PVC: GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals. Developed by the nonprofit Clean Production Action, GreenScreen® provides a means of comparing hazard assessments of chemicals in order to choose safer alternatives.
“At HP, we buy a lot of power cables. We knew that because of our buying power, we could have some influence on what the industry was doing,” says Paul Mazurkiewicz, a technologist for materials at HP. “We went really far back in the supply chain, to the people that fundamentally make these materials, and we trained them on how to use GreenScreen® and let them know that HP would be making choices based on the GreenScreen® in the future.”
HP is not alone: Around the world, electronics companies are working to reduce their use of chemicals that are known to be hazardous to human health, the environment or both.