HP rises to the toxic challenge: will WIPRO follow?

Feature story - March 9, 2006
HANNOVER, Germany — Electronics giant Hewlett Packard has risen to the challenge we set them and committed to a phase out plan for a range of hazardous chemicals in its products. Now we are at the consumer electronics industry's biggest annual event to ask "who's next?"

Greenpeace activists erect a giant robot made from electronic components at the entrance of the world's largest electronics fair, CeBit in Hannover, Germany. The protest is to remind the electronic industry leaders gathering that while the industry promotes ever-faster, smaller and smarter gadgets it cannot continue to ignore the mountain of toxic waste coming from their products nor the serious environmental impacts and human health consequences.

Which company will be following HP's lead and taking the first step in tackling the growing problem of toxic electronic waste by committing to remove hazardous chemicals from its products?

HP joins big industry names like Sony, Nokia, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson who are leading the industry by positive example on toxic chemicals. Companies like Acer, Apple, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba have so far failed to follow the industry leaders.

HP's change of policy didn't happen overnight. Back in 2003 we found that one of their computers contained particularly high amounts of a toxic chemical. Subsequently we confronted HP with the reality of their lack of action at their European headquarters, asked awkward questions when the HP boss visited China and finally turned up at their world headquarters in California with a special message for their staff. Thousands of concerned people wrote to HP about its chemicals policy and technology media covered the "Greenpeace versus HP" showdown in full.

Which company, currently ignoring the issue of toxic electronic waste, wants to be the next focus of our campaign? In September last year, Greenpeace activists had confronted WIPRO, an iconic Indian brand, at their corporate headquarters in Bangalore, to ‘Apply Thought’ and ‘Promote Clean Production’. Ten weeks later, senior officials from WIPRO responded to the challenge, promised initial steps on ‘take back’ of their products and also assured Greenpeace that they would present a road-map within six months to move to clean production.

The electronics industry will be hard at work promoting its ever faster, smaller and smarter gadgets but it cannot continue to ignore the dangerous explosion in electronic scrap (e-waste) containing toxic chemicals and heavy metals that cannot be disposed of or recycled safely. These high-tech gadgets often end up dumped in Asia and taken apart by hand in primitive, highly polluting and very definitely low-tech manner.

Clean it up and take it back!

By removing the toxic chemicals, companies make it cleaner and easier to recycle their products. Companies that take responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their products from cradle to grave ensure that their products last longer and cause less pollution. Our vision for the industry is one that produces cleaner, longer lasting, more sustainable products that don't contribute to the growing tide of toxic, short lived products currently being dumped in Asia.

Our toxics campaigner, Martin Hojsík will be asking the electronics companies where they stand on these issues at CeBit and he has a suggestion for next years event;
"The motto for this years CeBit is 'digital solutions for work and life', we want next years motto to be 'digital solutions without pollution'!"

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