Philips Electronics will include the cost of recycling its products in their retail prices in three countries that don't yet mandate recycling of waste electronic equipment, it said on Wednesday.
The move won the approval of environmental campaign group Greenpeace International, which has criticised Philips' past opposition to legislation obliging manufacturers to bear the cost of recycling their products.
Philips said it will set up recycling programmes for its electronics products on the "producer pays" model in Argentina, Brazil and India as part of a wider initiative to make 30 percent of its revenue from "green" products by 2012. Philips electronics products include televisions, music players, telephones and lighting.
Recycling schemes for electronics products typically adopt one of two pricing models: consumer pays or producer pays.
In France, and other countries that have adopted similar legislation, the consumer pays a fixed recycling fee for certain classes of product. In return, retailers must offer to take back one old product for each new one sold, handing the recycling fee to one of several companies that process the returned products.
The fee in France is intended to take account of the amount of waste the product contains, the difficulty of recycling and the value of the recycled materials. Thus, a mobile phone carries a fee of €0.10 (US$0.13) while a flat-screen television, larger and more difficult to recycle, carries a fee of €8. Those fees, though, are unrelated to the cost of recycling specific models of phone or television, some of which may be more difficult to disassemble or recycle, or contain more polluting materials, leaving the recycling companies to bear the cost of manufacturers' design decisions.
The producer pays model that Philips said it will adopt in its three new programmes, though, links the costs of disassembly and reprocessing directly to the products, giving the manufacturer an incentive to improve its designs and industrial processes.
Greenpeace is delighted that Philips has finally taken full financial responsibility for its own products, it said on Thursday.
The environmental campaign group has been pushing Philips, and other companies such as Nintendo, to accept greater responsibility for recycling their products, and to introduce voluntary take-back programs. In a report last December, the group praised mobile phone manufacturers Nokia and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications for improvements in these areas.
While Philips' recycling moves may be good for the environment in Argentina, Brazil and India, its goal of generating 30 percent of revenue from the sale of green products, compared to 25 percent last year, will lead to more modest gains.
For Philips, a green product is one that bests a competitor or predecessor by just 10 percent in either energy efficiency, packaging, use of hazardous substances, weight, recycling and disposal, or lifetime reliability.