Dell targeted for breaking promise on toxic chemicals

Feature story - 29 March, 2010
Greenpeace activists unfurled banners of every size today outside the offices of Dell in Bangalore, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, just as Dell executives meet to discuss a roadmap to finally remove the worst toxic chemicals from their electronics. The message around the world to Dell's founder and CEO: "Michael Dell: Drop the Toxics!" UPDATE

Greenpeace activists call on the managing director of Dell, Michal Dell, to stop using toxic components in his company's electronics.

Dell continues to use PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in all its computers, despite promising to eliminate these toxic substances. The giant PC maker committed publicly to be off these chemicals by the end of 2009. Well the deadline has passed and anyone buying a Dell computer will be sadly disappointed by what is in the box.

During production, use and disposal, PVC is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics, and can form dioxin, a known carcinogen, when burnt during sub-standard recycling practices.

UPDATE: Monday should have marked an end to the talking with an internal meeting with Michael Dell to approve a plan outlining how Dell will bring PCs on the market free of the worst toxic chemicals. However at the end of Monday we heard just more talk and no action, with the meeting apparently postponed. ( Read more on our blog)

BFRs which are highly resistant to degradation in the environment and are able to bio-accumulate (build up in animals and humans), can be released from products during use and can also form dioxins when burnt during the type of basic recycling practices commonly used in Asia and Africa.

Timing is everything

Dell's senior management team was set to decide Monday whether to approve a roadmap outlining quarter-by-quarter how to achieve progress towards a PVC/BFR-free status: for launching PCs free of PVC and BFRs. That's why our activists in the Netherlands, India and Denmark paid Dell a visit on this important day.

Dell isn't the only tech company in our Guide to Greener Electronics to have broken its public commitment to clean up. But for a company that aspires to be "the greenest technology company on the planet" Dell's lack of leadership in launching products free of PVC and BFRs is especially hypocritical and disappointing for customers.

Dell can make it right

Our campaigners have asked for roadmaps -- not just new phase out dates -- from all tech companies that have backtracked on their commitments for toxic chemical elimination.

We also want the companies, including Dell, to take a proactive position to ensure that their commitments for PVC and BFR elimination end up in the European Union's RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electronics) Directive. That way all electronics makers will have to clean up.

Dell: Drop the Toxics!

Protest at Dell HQ in Bangalore zoom

Greenpeace activists targeted Dell on Monday for its continued use PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in all its computers, despite promising to eliminate these toxic substances.


Watch mobile video footage from the action at Dell's building in Copenhagen.

Apple, HP, Acer and Wipro already offer PCs free of PVC and BFRs. Dell was the first company to provide a timeline (end of 2009) for eliminating these toxic substances in all its products. At the time we gave them credit for this positive move in the Guide to Greener Electronics. However, it was also the first company to backtrack on this commitment in May 2008 and despite a new timeline of 2011, the revised commitment is now to remove these substances in computing products only.

We want Dell to adopt a position on the RoHS Directive and advocate for it, as other leaders in the sector, like HP, Acer, Apple and Sony Ericsson, are already doing. Dell needs to play catch up.

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