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 user 2007-07-23 at 11:51:00 am Views: 44
  • #18437

    HP mines for gold in toxic trash
    IN a vast warehouse in a scorching valley near California’s capital, Hewlett-Packard workers mine for internet-age gold while diverting toxic electronic waste from landfills.The company is beefing up operations in the sleepy California town of Roseville, where its shredders and chippers rip up everything from mobile telephones to copy machines and salvage usable scraps.Yellowed newspaper clippings about e-waste dump sites in rural China are tacked to walls of a workshop where HP’s goal is to keep discarded technological devices and their toxic components out of the ground.”It’s a lot like old-fashioned gold mining,” HP employee Tatyana Kjellberg said.A football field-sized loading dock is stacked high with computer monitors, printers and servers collected in just one day.

    Those discards of internet-age life await deconstruction as conveyor belts, rotating blades and magnets crush and sift endless streams of junk flowing into huge plastic bins bound for a smelter. HP calls the process product minimisation. Computer components arrive on the dock and are dismantled by hand.ThE pieces are sent through a series of machines that break them down until all that remains are mounds of plastic, steel and aluminium in small chunks.The US computer maker is revving up a recycling effort it began with a parts return program in 1987.”We’d take the usable parts out of products and send them on for reuse, but then we were left with all these carcasses,” HP recycling operations manager Ken Turner said. “There was plenty of stuff we just didn’t know what to do with.”

    The company will accept any electronic device made by any manufacturer. The collection of vintage technology includes a Sony Mega Watchman, a mobile phone the size of an orthopedic shoe, and an early Commodore personal computer.An obsolete IBM ThinkPad bearing a sticker “Roberto’s T30″ awaits reincarnation at the top of a heap of abandoned machines. Last year, HP globally recycled 74 million kilograms of e-waste, a mass equivalent to 600 jumbo jets. The Roseville plant alone accounts for almost 2 million kilograms every month.”Our recycling program is light years ahead of most companies,” Mr Turner said. “But we also sell a lot more machines than other companies.”

    HP began in 1938 as a garage workshop in what is now Silicon Valley. The company grew into a behemoth selling a vast range of electronic devices worldwide. It reported almost $US92 billion in revenue last year.As technology increasingly pervades cultures worldwide, and product lifecycles shorten, there is a growing need for intensive e-cycling operations, according to environmental groups.Microsoft’s launch of its new Windows Vista operating system in January is expected to trigger a flood of e-waste worldwide as people upgrade to more advanced machines. The bulk of the technology trash lands in developing nations such as China, according to Greenpeace.