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Apple Slips, HP Climbs in Green Gadget Ranking

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Greenpeace has been a thorn in the side of the consumer electronics industry with its Guide to Greener Electronics, delivering harsh scores to gadget makers like Dell (s DELL), Nintendo and Lenovo over the years. The group has just released the 16th edition of the guide, which shows shuffling in the ranks of top companies as they launch new products, take on stronger advocacy roles, and sail past deadlines for eliminating hazardous substances.

Out of 18 companies on the list, Apple (s AAPL) has slipped all the way to 9th place from 5th place in the May 2010 edition, “not because it has lost any points,” Greenpeace explains. (Apple has the same score of 4.9, out of a possible 10). Rather, “several other companies have overtaken it.”

Apple scores most of its points based on criteria for toxic chemicals, since virtually all Apple products are now made without the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) — two nasty chemicals. Greenpeace calls for the company to disclose more information, however, about its supply chain and management of chemicals, as well as future plans for phasing out toxic chemicals.

Dell, which took Apple to task last year over Apple’s claims that it had “the world’s greenest family of notebooks,” boosted its score to 4.9 from 4.3 in the previous guide, holding steady at 10th place. Greenpeace credits Dell in the areas of chemicals and electronic waste, but the computer maker “continues to be hampered by the penalty point imposed for backtracking” on an earlier commitment to eliminate PVC plastic and BFRs in all products by the end of 2009.

HP (s HPq) is among the biggest gainers in Greenpeace’s ranking, climbing to 4th place with 5.5 points, up from 8th place with 4.9 points in the previous ranking. The improved score is partly due to new notebook and desktop lines that are free of PVC and BFRs, a PVC-free printer, and a pledge to phase out beryllium and beryllium compounds by July 2011.

In its statement about the latest scoring, Greenpeace centers much of its criticism on Toshiba and Microsoft (s msft), while praising Philips (s phg) and HP’s recent efforts to clean up their act. Microsoft took a penalty point for the first time for “backtracking on commitments” to phase out BFRs and PVC by the end of 2010. The company aims to phase out BFRs and phthalates from all products by 2012, notes Greenpeace, “but its commitment to phasing out PVC is not clear.” The company fell to 17th place from its previous spot at no. 16, with a score of only 1.9 points.

Toshiba, ranked at no. 16 with 2.3 points, got dinged for its lack of a PC product line made without PVC or BFRs. It also lost a point for failing to make good on a pledge to launch new models of all its consumer electronics products without PVC plastic or BFRs by April 2010.

Earning 5.5 points, Philips ranks in third place, behind Nokia (7.5 points) (s nok) and Sony Ericsoon (6.9 points) (s sne) (s eric). Philips won accolades for its Econova TV, which Greenpeace describes as the first TV free of PVC and BFRs. According to the group, Philips’s Econova puts the company “well ahead of other TV manufacturers.”

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