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 user 2009-05-29 at 12:35:39 pm Views: 328
  • #22062
    E-waste trade is the unacceptable face of recycling
    exposing false environmental claims
    manufacturers must take responsibility for dealing with electronic
    waste to ensure toxic trash doesn’t fall into the wrong handsDell, the
    world’s second largest PC manufacturer, announced earlier this month
    that it is imposing a ban on the export of used equipment bearing its
    name to developing countries – unless the equipment is in full working
    order and intended for legitimate use.The idea is to undermine the huge
    trade in e-waste, too much of which ends up in giant trash piles in
    Africa, India and China, from where it is dismantled, burned, treated
    with corrosive chemicals and otherwise persuaded to give up tiny
    amounts of chemicals that can be sold on. The big question is why all
    the other manufacturers don’t have a similar policy.I’ve seen these
    toxic waste operations in action. They call it recycling, but it’s
    extremely damaging. In an industrial wasteland outside New Delhi in
    India, I watched as children as young as eight dunked bare circuit
    boards in acid to create a residue of copper for sale to a local works.
    Child labour? You bet. Health and safety? You have to be joking.

    family of migrant boys from Bihar, India’s poorest state, told me they
    got used to the acrid fumes that had them coughing and giddy within
    minutes of coming on the job. “At the end of the day we have a strong
    drink and we are OK,” one laughed. It’s an evil trade. But how do you
    stop it?Dell admits that it cannot wave a magic wand and ban its used
    products from export. But it has a worldwide policy of accepting back
    without charge all used Dell equipment. It requires all its contractors
    to accept the used equipment, to follow the new rules – and to act as
    whistleblowers on rivals who do not.”This is a very significant
    announcement,” Barbara Kyle of the Electronics Takeback Coalition in
    the US told Associated Press earlier this month.

    The e-waste
    trade is the unacceptable face of recycling. Greenpeace reckons that as
    much as 80% of the electronic waste sent for recycling in the US ends
    up being “recycled” using dangerous low-tech methods in foreign
    countries. And, despite Europe’s tougher laws, a lot gets through the
    net there, too.Just a few months ago, Computer Aid International, a
    charity that gives old computers a new life in schools and other places
    in developing countries, criticised Britain’s Environment Agency for
    failing to conduct an investigation after British e-waste turned up in
    the hands of child dismantlers in west Africa.”What are the other
    manufacturers doing to ensure a responsible outcome for the equipment?”
    asked Tony Roberts, of Computer Aid International. “All manufacturers
    should be held accountable for the disposal of any product manufacturer
    by them.”Many other companies offer take-back services. But that is
    very different from imposing rules on their supply chains. And on
    closer examination, the take-back services often seem half-hearted at

    The printer maker Lexmark is currently covering Britain
    with posters advertising its environmental credentials and encouraging
    users of its printers to print less. Good for them. But what about the
    e-waste?In the US, if you want to safely recycle an old Lexmark
    printer, you have to pay the bill for shipping your printer back to its
    offices in Tennessee.

    A study by Greenpeace this month of the
    environmental record of electronics companies did not give Dell a great
    record because it had been slow to eliminate some toxic ingredients
    from its products. But at least it is now taking a strong stand about
    making sure those toxins don’t get into the wrong hands and it should
    rise up the Greenpeace chart.

    Its rivals will have to do a lot
    better to keep up. Greenpeace singled out the largest computer
    manufacturer Hewlett Packard on its handling of e-waste. HP claims to
    have been “an industry leader in reducing its impact on the environment
    … for 50 years”, but Greenpeace didn’t agree. It criticised HPs weak
    scheme for voluntary take-back of its equipment amongst other
    things.Also criticised for failing to handle e-waste were Acer and
    Lenovo, whose “commitment to social responsibility” does not highlight
    e-waste.These companies need to quit the greenwash and get real about
    ending this bogus recycling business