Indium Blog

Updated Greenpeace Greener Guide

Greenpeace has just updated their "Guide to Greener Electronics."  There are a couple of interesting tibdits that I took from their report:

  1. They are really focusing on the phase out of BFR's and PVC from electronics.  They dropped HP and Dell down because they are loosening their timeline of BFR and PVC phase-out.  I find it interesting that they make no note of what the replacements should be.  This is concerning that the replacements could potentially be MORE toxic than what they are replacing.  It took years to fully characterize the situations where BFR's and PVC are of concern (dioxin formation and bioaccumulation).  In addition, all BFR's are not the same.  If companies are phasing out these materials, how can they do a full risk assessment of the replacements in one to two years?
  2. They have added Antimony (Sb) to their list of materials that need to be phased out.  This can be challenging for a number of soldering applications.  Component manufacturers have been using Sn/Sb alloys inside their components.  Sn/Sb is the highest melting point Pb-Free alloy that actually solders reasonably well (other than Au/Sn which is 1000x as expensive).  The component guys are using this so that those alloys are not remelting when that component is assembled in a SAC SMT process.  Eliminating Sb will create a number of assembly challenges as well as potentially significant reliability issues.
  3. By reading the summary of the report, they praise Apple for phasing out virtually all BFR's and PVC.  However, their ranking is still in the bottom half.  I will write more about this one in a future entry.

I am all for designing electronics for the environment, but I think there needs to be more focus on the consequences of making those design changes.  Are the alternatives actually any better?  What is the impact on product reliability and functionality?