Greenpeace pulls plug on dirty electronics companies

Activists return e-waste to Hewlett-Packard's European HQ

Press release - 2005-05-23
Greenpeace called on dirty electronic companies to clean up their act today. At 10 am this morning, Greenpeace China shamed the dirty companies attending the Electronic expo in Beijing, by unveiling a 2.7 metre high statue shaped as a wave, built using the companies’ electronic waste collected from e-waste recycling yards in Guiyu, Guangdong Province. This afternoon, fifteen (15) Greenpeace activists delivered a truckload of electronic waste to Hewlett Packard’s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and called on it to stop using dangerous chemicals in its computers. (1)

A visitor at a high-tech exhibition looks at a Greenpeace e-waste statue – a 2.7-metre high wave that was built using e-waste collected from recycling yards in Guiyu, Guangdong Province.

"Electronics companies like Hewlett Packard are generating a new, fast growing hazardous waste stream that's causing problems of global proportions.  As much as 4.000 tonnes of toxic e-waste is discarded every hour , that's equivalent to 1,000 elephants (2). Unless they start making clean machines and take their products back when they're discarded, China's going to become the world's toxic trash bin," said Greenpeace China campaigner, Kevin May, talking from the action site in Geneva.

Because our mobile phones, computers and other electronic products are made using toxic ingredients, workers at production sites and at yards like Guiyu are at risk of exposure when they break the products apart by hand, under appalling, unregulated conditions. Because toxic products cannot be recycled safely when they are discarded, many are routinely, and often illegally, shipped from Europe, Japan and the US to China and other Asian countries because it is cheaper and easier to dump the problem here than to deal with it there. (3)

Visitors at a high-tech exhibition in Beijing look at Greenpeace's sculpture made of electronic waste collected from Guiyu.

Greenpeace is conducting ongoing investigations into scrap yards in China and other Asian countries, where it has found people taking the e-waste apart by hand and being exposed to a nasty cocktail of dangerous chemicals, many of which can damage people even at very low levels of exposure.

Greenpeace China's Kevin May has taken some of s e-waste found in Guiyu, along with some hand held tools used to recycle the products with him to Hewlett Packard headquarters in Geneva, which he plans to deliver to the company and ask them to stop using toxic substances in their products.

A Greenpeace volunteer next to Greenpeace's e-waste display at the high tech expo in Beijing

It has also been in negotiations with electronics companies over the past two years, pressing them to stop using toxics in their products. Companies such as Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson have already taken a first step by eliminating brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and PVC plastic from some of their products. Sony Ericsson has committed to removing them from all their products by the end of 2005. Nokia has committed to do the same by the end of 2006 but Hewlett Packard, Apple, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, LG, Motorola, Panasonic, and Toshiba have, to date, made no such commitment.

The environmental organization commissioned tests on nine top electronics companies' products in 2003. (REF TNO report). The results showed Hewlett Packard's A250 L Pavilion contained the highest levels of Greenpeace also found that HP Pavilion A2 of the same series had been sold in China.

Greenpeace activists deliver a truckload of toxic electronic waste to Hewlett Packard's European headquarters in Geneva.

VVPR info:

IMAGES OF TODAY'S ACTION AND THE E-WASTE SCRAP YARDS IN CHINA ARE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST FROM GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

Video: Michael Nagasaka +31 6 461 66309
Photo: John Novis +31 6 538 19121

Notes:

(1) See Greenpeace commissioned report by TNO, “The Determination of Selected Additives in Consumer Products”, TNO R 2004/002, Dec 2003 and, for further information on toxic tech, the chemicals routinely used in electronic products and their potential health impacts see http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/determination-of-selective-add.pdf

(2) UNEP estimate that 20-50 million tones of e-waste are discarded worldwide every year. That’s an average of 35 million tones, or 4,000 tonnes per hour.

(3) See: http://www2.vrom.nl/pagina.html?id=9396
For details of the companies’ commitments, or lack of them, see http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/Guide-to-Greener-Electronics/

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