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The Importance of Eliminating PVC/BFR from E-Gear

There is increased focus on eliminated PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and BFR (Brominated Flame Retardants) from e-gear. Why is this important?

An early element of Green ICT was the reduction of hazardous substances (RoHS) in the manufacture of computers and other ICT equipment. The EU RoHS directive that went into effect during 2006 limited use of six substances including two BFRs - Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). These chemicals were traditionally used to make plastics less flammable, but they also made them more costly to recycle or to discard. Equipment containing only plastics with levels below 0.1% (the EU standard) have significantly more value as recyclables.

The EU RoHS directive did not specifically ban PVC, but did ban substances used as PVC stabilizers. Since then, PVCs themselves have undergone increased scrutiny. PVC also reduces the value of recyclables.

The bottom line is that these substances are toxic to humans and animals and are not biodegradable; Greenpeace has detailed the dangers from the manufacture, use, and disposal of PVC/BFR-based e-devices. We have updated our Greenest E-Gear posts to reflect models specifically identified by Greenpeace as PVC/BFR-free. Links to these posts appear on the right.

Greenpeace's Toxic Tech: Switching On to Green Electronics expands the discussion to include "heavy metals – highly toxic compounds of lead, mercury or cadmium – hexavalent chromium, beryllium" as well as PVC and BFR.

African conflict minerals represent another area of consideration for truly green electronics.

Update 2100329:
Greenpeace actions in India and Netherlands, timed to influence Dell's annual shareholder meeting, called on CEO Micheal Dell to remove PVC and BFRs from Dell products.