Dell promises greener computers but users want more

Feature story - 26 June, 2006
Dell has become the latest company to promise to remove the worst toxic chemicals from it products, closely following the move of its rival HP. Both companies have been pressured by us to make their products greener and help tackle the growing mountain of toxic e-waste.

Dell computer waste (e-waste) in a Chinese scrap yard. Dell and other progressive companies have made moves to start tackling the e-waste problem. Will others follow?

Dell made the announcement with a pledge to phaseout the use of two key groups of chemicals known to be hazardous to theenvironment: all types of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and theplastic polyvinyl chlorine (PVC), by 2009. This latest success follows just months after oursuccess in pressuring its big rival Hewlett Packard (HP) to change itspolicy in March 2006.

Easy as Dell

HP, LGE, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson havealready made commitments to eliminate the use of BFR's and PVC in the near future. However, a number of other companiesincluding Acer, Apple, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Siemensand Toshiba have so far failed to commit to similar measures. Motorola recently broke its promise to clean up.

But despite these small steps in the right direction by some companiesit is clear that electronics users expect more. A survey conducted byIpsos-MORI for us reveals that most people across nine countries saythey would pay extra for a more environmentally friendly computer andthat companies should be held responsible for dealing with theirhazardous waste from PCs.

The nine country survey, carried out earlier this year, found that fromhalf to three-quarters of computer users say that they would be willingto pay extra for an environmentally friendly computer. The amountsranged from US$59 in Germany, US$118 in UK, US$199 in China and awhopping US$229 in Mexico.

Toxic as hell

Every year, hundreds of thousands of old computers and mobile phones containing toxic chemicals are dumped in landfills or burned insmelters. Thousands more are exported, often illegally, from theEurope, US, Japan and other industrialised countries, to Asia. There,workers at scrap yards, some of whom are children, are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals and poisons. This is the dark side of atrend for cheaper, more disposable electronics.

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

Electronics is a fast moving, innovative industry that can respondquickly to users wishes and new trends. But this years hottest gadgetshouldn't end up being next years e-waste being taken apart by aChinese child. Some companies are making positive moves and our surveyshows that users want a cleaner industry and are willing to pay extrafor it.

Will the industry follow this trend?

Take action

Check out how the top companies line up on toxic chemicals and consider which deserve your money next time you buy electronics.

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