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A Belgian company strives to be the world's first "fair trade" electronics producer.
The European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED), which represents the European household appliances industry, feels the commission’s version puts too much responsibility on producers.
While manufacturers will remain committed to accepting returned electronics, the EU insists that member states take on the primary responsibility for collection and for reaching the required percentage of produced waste. The parliamentary draft supports this position.
The new legislation would also require more action in the design stages of electronic items, calling for new requirements to be put in place governing easier re-use, dismantling and recovery.
United Pepper’s products already incorporate these principles by having the tiniest possible electronics enclosed in eco-friendly wrappings that create the smallest possible “footprint” in their manufacturing. The webcam, Lili, can be disposed of by just pulling out the lens and minimal internal components, detaching the cable and letting the cotton and kapok compost.
Oscar, a USB hub, is even more biodegradable, similarly made of kapok, cotton, Mekong sand, cardboard and glue with no need for a cord, while a new webcam, Cube, is made of biodegradable wood — and Xavier Petre assures that trees are planted to replace those which are used.
“When you put 50 euros on the table to buy a webcam, you should know who is behind it and you should know what kind of material is used,” Petre said.
“It’s not as green as we want,” he acknowledged, citing the lens and cable which are not yet able to be made of biodegradable substances, “but we are able to move in the right direction.”
A few months ahead of the iPad rage, United Pepper also released a tablet PC. It’s selling well, capitalizing on the craze for the Apple product, but more attractive to customers who prioritize the green commitment of its manufacturers. (Apple ranked just below average among the major producers in Greenpeace’s May 2010 Guide to Greener Electronics, and then there are the horrific Foxconn suicides).
Later this year, United Pepper hopes to be able to replace the tablet’s metal shell with one made from a composite of rice husks and as soon as technically possible, to create a 100 percent biodegradable tablet.
The company states its goal as “to help make the world a better place, a place where corporate social responsibility and environmental engagement are on the top of everyone’s agenda.”
Yet Marc Aelbrecht refutes the suggestion that’s a rather utopian aim. “An idealist, in my mind, is someone who strives for something which is hardly reachable,” he said. “But this, this is possible. We can do this.”