By assessing a product's environmental impact at its initial design, Panasonic sets eco targets for its products that include energy savings, reduced use of chemicals, recyclability, and use of recycled content. Following this assessment, our products are "scored" for their relative impact on the environment.
LEAD FREE SOLDER
Lead is a substance that can trigger health problems if accumulated in the human body. Yet lead constitutes a vital compound used worldwide in the solder to connect electronic components to printed circuit boards.
To address this concern over a common lead application in electronics, Panasonic was the world's first company to introduce and mass produce lead-free solder in 1998. Since then, Panasonic has actively pursued the development of lead-free solder technology and its practical application to electronics products.
From a single product (mini-disc player) using the lead-free solder in 1998, we expanded our applications to over 188 products by the end of 2002. More than 30 million Panasonic products have already been manufactured using a lead-free solder including wide screen TVs, DVD players, digital still cameras and cellular telephones. In the spring of 2003, Panasonic intends to convert its entire product line to lead-free solder, thus taking another step forward toward environmental protection and preservation.
In addition, Panasonic is striving to reduce our use of halogenated plastics, commonly used in the manufacture of product cabinets and coverings for electric wires. Halogenated compounds have traditionally been used in these plastics due to their fire-resistant properties. However, under certain conditions when these halogen compounds are incinerated as waste, there is a possibility that toxic gasses may be emitted.
To address this concern, we have worked with other manufacturers to develop wires and plastics that do not contain halogen compounds. In September of 1999, Panasonic began marketing the world's first wide screen TV for which halogen compounds had been eliminated from low voltage internal wires, from the cabinet, from the back cover, and from a number of printed wiring boards. We are now applying this know how to a wide range of other products including laptop computers, room air conditioners, and other TVs.
The use of plastic resins is critical to the design of most electronics products. Plastics are often unique blends with slight additives used to improve the resin's strength and performance. This common practice of using blended resins has contributed to challenges of recycling waste electronics.
In the past several years, Panasonic has confronted this challenge by drastically reducing the number of types and grades of plastic resins. Our reduction in the number of main plastic grades (typically PS, PP, and ABS) has resulted in products that are much easier to recycle than their predecessors.