March 13, 2007 10:17 AM PDT

Wal-Mart places new focus on sustainable electronics

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Wal-Mart announced on Tuesday a new campaign to raise awareness of sustainable consumer electronics sold in its ubiquitous discount stores.

Beginning in 2008, Wal-Mart will introduce a "scorecard" to provide statistics on the eco-friendliness of its electronics products, with criteria that include energy efficiency, durability, the amount of packaging, potential for recycling, and levels of hazardous substances. Electronics suppliers will be asked to fill out this scorecard, which will then be made available to Wal-Mart customers.

Wal-Mart's announcement came as part of the "Take It Back" conference held this week in Annapolis, Md. The conference focused on environmental responsibility and recycling issues for product manufacturers.

"The scorecard encourages improvements that are good for business as well as for the environment," said Ross Farnsworth, divisional merchandise manager of home electronics for Wal-Mart, in his keynote speech at the Take It Back event, "reflecting Wal-Mart's view that being a profitable and efficient business goes hand in hand with being a good steward to the environment."

In an attempt to reshape its image to fit a more environmentally conscious mold, Wal-Mart has initiated a number of green-tech efforts. Late last year, for instance, the company put out a request for proposals to suppliers to install solar panels at its stores, but it has not yet made a decision on a purchase.

But Wal-Mart has other environmental initiatives in the works, too: among them are promotions of energy-conserving compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and electronics waste recycling days at its stores around the country. As part of its electronics scorecard program, the chain will also be sponsoring a design contest, in conjunction with the nonprofit Green Electronics Council, for the development of a new sustainable electronics product that implements its scorecard metrics.

The store chain, virtually synonymous with middle America, has been aiming for a more tech-savvy image in addition to a green-savvy one. In the past few months, it has taken steps to improve its Web infrastructure thanks to a partnership with Microsoft and Novell, instituted a store pickup program for online orders, and explored the growing digital movie download market.

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The usual liberal environmental crap.
Boy, you can sure tell Wal-Mart is under a lot of political pressure. Sustainable electronics is a joke. It makes as much sense as trying to make biodegradeable TVs.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
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It makes a ton of sense.
You don't have to make them Bio Degradeable, just repairable.

This would require actually shipping enough spare parts to North America to sustain repairs over an increasingly long life cycle, actually training the technicians on your products, and providing service materials (such as service manuals and hardware), and perhaps making the units themselves more modular and upgradable.

Money can be made from selling parts for out-of-warranty repairs, just as the automotive industry does. However, this will never happen as long as we allow companies to dump electronics goods in our countries at such low prices.

Electronnic goods need to have a longer life cycle, especially at the low end of the price scale.
Posted by Mergatroid Mania (8395 comments )
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I agree, put on a show for consumers
Why not address other environmental issues as well. They sure sell allot of motor oil. No local Walmart I know of takes in used oil to recycle.
Posted by cougar12 (2 comments )
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This is a good start
I work in an electronics repair shop.

I see or hear of tons of electronics either being thrown in the land fills or being sent "for recycling".

A big part of the problem is that electronics have gotten so cheap. We see people throwing away ink and laser multifunction units and printers all the time.

We need some kind of laws to force the prices up on these devices (and other electronic products) to make them worth repairing.

Every day I hear the old refrain "cheaper to buy a new one".

It's understandable that as devices evolve people would want to update, but as device technology matures and is not very upgradable any more, they should be made to last and be repaired.

New tech toys are usually expensive, and the price declines as the technology ages, but it should never go down so low as to not be worth repairing.

Part of the problem is all the no name brand devices that are dumped into North America at rock bottom prices. None of those companies have the R&D costs, or the costs of maintaining service facilities and actually (God forbid) employing people in our countries. These slash throat companies are a big part of the problem, and force the name brand companies to lower prices unreasonably. Lets be real. I can buy a new colour inkjet printer for about $50 CDN. You know that's a pretty ridiculous price, and I've had people tell me when they're buying them that when the ink runs out, they will throw the printer away and buy another one. There is no way this is good for anyone. If the companies raised the price of their printers enough to actually make a decent profit, maybe we could buy those $30 ink cartridges for the $5 they're actually worth.
As a comsumer, I like low prices too, but enough is enough.
Posted by Mergatroid Mania (8395 comments )
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