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Greenpeace guide frowns on HP, still loves Nokia

The environmental group wags its finger at electronics makers for backtracking on their commitment to eliminate certain chemicals from their products.

Greenpeace released its latest Guide to Greener Electronics on Wednesday, revealing that promises aren't always kept.

The Greenpeace guide, which started in 2006, ranks the top 17 PC, cell phone, TV, and gaming console manufacturers based on their policies regarding e-waste, climate change, and use of toxic chemicals.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Lenovo all dropped in the rankings for failing to live up to public promises to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their computers by the end of 2009, according to Greenpeace.

While 2009 isn't over yet, Greenpeace noted that the companies have reset their clocks. HP (14th place) formally pushed back its phase-out of the chemicals to 2011. Dell (13th place) will fail to meet the 2009 deadline, but has offered no new timeline. Lenovo (down from 14th to 16th place) changed to a 2010 deadline, and Greenpeace claimed it has information that even that deadline will be dropped.

In conjunction with the release, members of the group protested at HP's Beijing facilities last week.

Apple, meanwhile, dropped to 11th place from 9th. Greenpeace gave the Mac maker kudos for its success in making products completely BFR-free and "virtually free of PVC," as well as its green computer campaign. But Apple was scolded for using "unreasonably high threshold limits for BFRs and PVC in products that are allegedly PVC-/BFR-free." As experts have noted, since there is currently no widespread standard for reporting on many environmental and carbon footprint issues, companies have been struggling to determine their own guidelines. Apparently, Greenpeace didn't like the ones it saw Apple using for this category.

Microsoft remained in 15th place, still admonished by Greenpeace for not having a better customer e-waste return policy.

Samsung garnered 2nd for succeeding in producing PVC-free LCD TVs and lowering the overall amount of toxins in its other products by significant amounts. Sony Ericsson moved up from 5th place to 3rd for improving its energy efficiency.

Last place? Still Nintendo, though Greenpeace gave the Wii maker points for switching to PVC-free internal wiring in their gaming consoles.

First place continues to be the province of Nokia, which remains the greenest company in the eyes of Greenpeace, notably for the success of its take-back program for used phones.

While many companies have gotten serious about recycling tech junk, Greenpeace sees e-waste as one of the most serious forms of pollution going unchecked.

The environmental organization claims that e-waste is the fastest growing contributor of municipal waste because of the frequency at which people upgrade to new cell phones, computers, and other electronics. According to its estimates, 20 million to 50 million tonnes of electronics are thrown away each year worldwide.(Others estimate that e-waste will plateau by 2015.)