Dell commits to removing hazardous chemicals from its PCs, as survey shows consumers are willing to pay more for ‘green’ computers

Companies should be held responsible for toxics substances in discarded PCs, say consumers

Feature story - June 26, 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.

Greenpeace has welcomed the commitment made by computer giant Dell (1) to eliminate key hazardous chemicals from its personal computers (PCs), laptops and other products, as a response to its ongoing campaign to green the electronics industry. The announcement comes as Greenpeace releases an international survey revealing that consumers (2), including those in the Philippines, are prepared to pay more for 'greener' computers and that companies must be held responsible for their products when they become hazardous waste.

Dell made the announcement on its website, where the company posted a corporate pledge about its chemical policy, committing to phase out the use of two key groups of chemicals known to be hazardous to the environment: all types of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and the plastic polyvinyl chlorine (PVC), by 2009. (3)

"Dell's decision to remove these harmful chemicals reflects a move within the electronics industry in the right direction to become cleaner and it is clearly the direction that consumers want. Consumers not only want greener PCs but they are willing to pay extra for them," said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner based in the Philippines. "Consumers are also demanding that the computer industry lives up to its responsibilities, and ensures that when its products reach the end of their life, they do not become hazardous waste which contaminates the environment", she continued.

Because of the lack of proper measures for E-waste disposal in the Philippines, discarded electronics are incinerated, dumped in landfills, or end up with backyard recyclers-exposing workers, poor communities, and the environment to poisonous heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, and halogenated substances such as BFRs and PVCs.

The nine country survey, carried out earlier this year found that Filipinos (at 60% of those surveyed), next to Brazilians (61%), are among the most convinced that computers and other electronics contain hazardous materials. Across the other countries surveyed, between a third and a half of participants also agree hazardous waste is present with Germany 48%, China 44% and Great Britain 43%.

The Greenpeace-commissioned international survey indicated that from half to three-quarters of computer users say that they would be willing to pay extra for an environmentally friendly computer. This ranges from 54% in Germany, 65% in Poland, 68% in Britain, 78% in Mexico, 81% in China, and 84% in Thailand. In the Philippines, 62% are willing to pay an average of USD118.00 more. This amount is higher than what Germans (USD70.00) and Poles (USD86.00) are willing to pay extra. Mexicans were willing to pay the highest at USD229.00, followed by China ($199), Thailand ($138), and Britain ($138).

Consumers also believe that responsibility for dealing with hazardous waste from PCs at the end of their lifetime lies very much with the manufacturer (4). Half of the participants of the survey (49%) agree with this, rising to two thirds of consumers in Mexico and Thailand (66% and 64%, respectively), followed by Germany and China (57% and 53%, respectively).

Dell's commitment follows a campaign by Greenpeace calling on the electronic industry to eliminate the most hazardous toxic chemicals from its products and for it to move to 'clean production'. Hewlett Packard, LGE, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson have already made commitments to eliminate the use of some hazardous chemicals in the near future. However, a number of other companies including Acer, Apple, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba have so far failed to commit.

Also being named and shamed by Greenpeace is Motorola, the only one of the top five mobile manufacturers which has failed to commit to removing toxic components, and has recently been downgraded in Greenpeace's industry ranking, after backtracking on earlier commitments. (5)

For further information:

In the Philippines:

Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner, +63 917 803 6077

Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969

In Amsterdam:

Zeina al-hajj, Greenpeace International, +31 20 718 2069

1. Link to the Dell Website. http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/environment/en/prod_design?c=us&l=en&s=corp&~section=016 2. Greenpeace International commissioned Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, a public opinion research agency in England to conduct the survey. The Summary is available on the following link: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/ 3. The Electronics industry uses a wide range of hazardous chemicals in its products and production lines. In July 2006, a European Directive (RoHS - Restriction of Hazardous Substances) will come into force requiring the industry to eliminate four types of heavy metals (Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Mercury) as well as two types of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs). Greenpeace wants the electronics industry to go beyond the EU Directive and eliminate all type of BFRs and PVC. 4. Electronics companies are generating a new fast growing hazardous waste stream that is causing problems of global proportions. UNEP estimate that 20-50 million tons of e-waste are discarded worldwide every year - an average of 35 million tons, or 4,000 tons per hour. 5. Greenpeace link to the story on Motorola: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/motorolabreakstoxicspromise230606

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