ANALYSIS: Sony on track to eliminate waste by 2050

Sony Corporation has exceeded its waste minimisation targets across all of its global business sites, achieving a 54% reduction rate in 2010 set against a 40% objective.

The electronics giant is now embarking on a number of pioneering initiatives to take its ambitions further. Out in Korea, Sony has launched a zero electronic waste campaign in collaboration with the Korean Government and various recycling companies, signing a memorandum of understanding with a national council of green consumers.

To underline this scheme, the manufacturer has drawn up a series of educational programs for students and their mentors, enrolling pupils from 100 schools to collect electronics waste for recycling, and to communicate the benefits of responsible e-waste recovery to their peers.

Across Europe Sony is also making great strides on the waste front. Recycling levels have increased from 73% in 2000 to 99% in 2009, meaning that 99% of the waste generated by Sony Europe’s manufacturing facilities is now either reused or recycled.

The company prides itself on its sustainability goals and sets progressively more challenging targets every few years in line with its Road to Zero ambitions to achieve a carbon footprint of zero by 2050. According to Sony’s head of European environmental affairs Dr Thomas Fischer, it’s a challenging task and interim targets are required to keep track of progress.

He said: “We have set targets for 2015 that cover both operations and products, and impact on greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, use of recycled materials, water consumption, carbon dioxide emissions from our logistics and transport, and so on.”

This includes on the product design front an increase in the use of recycled materials and reduction in the use of virgin plastics of 5%. Last September the company unveiled low carbon and waste technology at an electronics show out in Berlin, including a TV made from recycled plastics – the Bravia 22EX310.

The polymers used originate from used DVDs and TV optical sheets giving it the “highest proportion” of recycled content of any plastic casing in the world, according to Sony. Talking to edie last year, Dr Fischer said that the company was looking to exploit the remanufacture of secondary materials wherever possible.

“Reused material is going into items like television stands, but it is also used in other areas like camera lens hoods or the packaging of DVD cases,” he said.

Packaging of these products is also being scrutinised. Out in Malaysia, Sony is working with its packaging manufacturers to recycle cardboard waste, with a significant proportion of the material reprocessed into new cardboard cartons for the company’s Bravia TVs and cushioning materials for DVD and Blu-ray disc players.

The manufacturer is even turning its attention to food waste with a novel project out in Thailand. Here systems have been installed to convert food waste into biogas, reducing the carbon footprint of key facilities by reducing the amount of liquid propane gas (LPG) required for cooking. So far, around 115 tonnes of food waste and 19 tonnes of CO2 have been reduced annually.

Looking ahead, the next lot of corporate interim targets fall under the company’s Green Management (GM) programme for 2015, the successor to its GM2010 plan. Under this, specific targets have been set for each stage of the product life cycle, from R&D to product recycling.

Maxine Perella

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