Environmentally friendliest electronics components manufacturers
December 14, 2016 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Doing a tiny bit of electronics stuff, ordering resistors and capacitors and other components. The vendors' cool search engine has hundreds of options and lets me choose among manufacturers. Is there any way to know which manufacturers are best environmentally, or are at least trying/stating a policy/located in places with good regulatory oversight?

For example, on the Newark site (they're geographically close to me), for 68 uF capacitor.

I know leaded aluminium electrolytic capacitors will work, I'm specifying "in stock" and "ROHS compliant", radial leaded, and there are still 74 options, including


I tried Googling "electronic components environmental" but didn't get anything substantial and specific (i.e., nobody is saying "Noracomponent Inc. has a policy of X" or "Generatron has an especially poor environmental record").

I tried searching for one or two company names with the word "environmental" and also didn't find anything.

I'm not hugely surprised, but does anyone know anything about the comparative environmental policies of manufacturers?

Failing that, is there some other way of trying to filter these searches for "not killing the planet more than necessary?"

(In case it matters, the specific capacitor values I'm looking for now include 1, 2.2, 10, 22, and 68 uF. I picked some ceramic 3.3 uF caps because I wanted non-polarized.)

Thanks. Any, any, any ideas about this are very welcome.
posted by amtho to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, just off the top of my head I would sort by price, descending, and do my research in that order. The more enviro options are likely to be more expensive. Also, "green" and/or "sustainable" might be good search terms, and for what it's worth there seems to be visible work in this direction for supercaps. I can also see a distinction between sustainable cap manufacturing and the green record of the manufacturer in general.
posted by rhizome at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2016

No, there isn't. Rhizome's advice is bad because more expensive capacitors are because of specialized roles, which, if anything, might require specialized, rarer minerals that are more likely to be "environmentally damaging".

However, you are buying some 5 cents OEM cost of components. You could be buying rhino horn and not really affecting the environment.
posted by flimflam at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can also see a distinction between sustainable cap manufacturing and the green record of the manufacturer in general.

Could you please clarify this?

Are you saying that looking at the record of the manufacturer isn't sufficient? That I'd need to know about how an individual cap was made?
posted by amtho at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2016

I don't know whether it's sufficient, but yes I was wondering about the degree of green-ness you're looking for, whether a cleaner cap produced by a dirty manufacturer was acceptable, or a worse cap by a greener manu, or both, or something else.

I'm not saying that sorting by price descending would be dispositive. Due diligence should be used to determine the amount of rhino horn in your prospective capacitor.
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2016

Response by poster: whether a cleaner cap produced by a dirty manufacturer was acceptable, or a worse cap by a greener manu, or both, or something else.

I'd like a way to avoid a dirty cap by a dirty manufacturer, at least. I'm not sure how to even do that.

I'm really looking for what information is discoverable and how to discover it, particularly about manufacturers.

If there are certain manufactuers that are greener, I think that's really what I'm interested in. Has anyone compiled information? How would I find information for individual companies?

If there are certain types of caps that are greener, that's helpful too. I found one audio manufacturer saying that aluminum electrolytics are less green than polyethylene/polytetrafluoroethylene for [vague reasons]. I've found articles about supercapacitors -- if I need one of those, I'll know how to research that. I'm not seeing stuff about smaller capacitors. An LCA document would be cool.
posted by amtho at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2016

My guess would be that any company manufacturing here in the USA will be a bit more environmentally compliant than offshore ones. But you'll need to track down the country of origin of every lot you produce (which is different than part #)

That said, it can't hurt to query each manufacturer, or focus on the first one that seems to approach your necessary level of comfort.

I grabbed Illinois Capacitor right off the top of your list and found their Conflict Materials Policy in 10 seconds of browsing. So maybe that's a good starting point?
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:41 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

JoeZydeco's Comment is a good starting place. If a component manufacturer is forward thinking enough to have a conflict minerals policy, it's a good bet they have already greened themselves up too. That said, pretty much anything you buy from the big US or European disti's is going to as green as you are likely to get until there is another big regulatory squeeze.

For what it's worth, sleuthing that stuff out is insanely hard. The last big place I worked actually had people who's full time job was component supplier sustainability auditing. They had Fortune 100 resources behind them and still had a time of it.
posted by Dr. Twist at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, Joe. Maaaaaaybe that helps.

In case others are interested in this information:

That Conflict Materials Policy document looks a little like "we're legally required to make a statement about complying with the law", so it's not super impressive, but it's something. It certainly beats _not_ having a conflict materials policy.

I did try searching for relevant environmental statements for two different companies in the list and found nothing.
posted by amtho at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2016

on both newark and mouser sites (and i guess others) you can add rohs compliance to the product search. it doesn't do much, but it's something.

also, mouser link to suppliers statements, but some seem to be out of date / missing.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:20 PM on December 14, 2016

You could call the manufacturers directly, but they will probably refer you to your local distributor (or back to Newark).

If you were a large enough customer that Newark was interested in assisting you, maaaaaybe you will get an answer. Unfortunately if you're buying $4 of popcorn, you will probably get the brushoff all around.

Sorry, that's just how these guys work.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2016

Perhaps you could look at an "ethical" investment portfolio (here in Australia, for example, we have "ethical" superannuation funds [quotes used because of varying levels of ethicalness]) and reverse-engineer from there, looking for company names. The funds/portfolios would have been assembled based on at least some form of research and due diligence.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:21 PM on December 14, 2016

Also: "environmentally friendly" and "sustainable" are both strong selling points, at least for commercial products, so if e.g. Sorny manufactures an "environmentally friendly" television (I don't know if they do or not) then you could try and find out who makes their boards and so forth.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:23 PM on December 14, 2016

Yup, you're small fry. RoHS promises (or at least insinuates) that nasty stuff didn't make it into the final product, but that's the only guarantee you're going to find.
posted by neckro23 at 8:25 PM on December 14, 2016

Response by poster: Here's what I found about the three American and "Indeterminate" -based companies by spending more time just looking at the companies' web sites:

Multicomp: seems to be "multiple companies", low cost, little oversight, seems to be kind of a "house brand"

Illinois Capacitor: founded in 1934 in Illinois, no environmental statement found. If it's there, it's not prominently featured.

Vishay: American company with factories in Israel, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Clumsily-written "Environmental Health and Safety" page which seems to consist of bullet points from a required policy put into paragraph form (some sentences lack verbs).

They also have a "Quality and Environmental" page which links to a fairly dense one-page PDF in several languages. This mentions an interesting-sounding environmental committed that reports to the vice president of the company, but with no mention of any real power. Still, its's something.

There's a fancy "About Vishay" PDF which spends first page of small text on being a leader and "Growth", the rest consists of product areas and a word cloud. Nothing on environmental concerns, conflict, or humans.

Better than the other two, but I wish for more concrete details. Corporate writing seldom seems to have those, but it would be nice.
posted by amtho at 12:55 PM on December 15, 2016

Response by poster: 1 European company:

Würth Elektronik Group electronic components subsidiary Würth Elektronik EiSos - 6 plants in Europe, 1 in USA, 1 in Mexico, 4 in China, 1 in Thailand, 1 in Taiwan. They have a short "compliance" page which uses brief language to say that they don't tolerate corruption or conflict materials. Nothing about environment specifically except the implied adherence to regulations.
posted by amtho at 1:01 PM on December 15, 2016

There was a movement several years ago to get rid of conflict tantalum in electronics supply chains. I haven't heard of any particular environmentally focused companies though.
posted by Standard Orange at 8:51 PM on December 15, 2016

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