The Inquirer-Home

HP turning the world into a toxic trash bin

Dirty electonics firms slammed
Tue May 24 2005, 14:00
ENVIRON-MENTALIST organisation Greenpeace has issued a call to "dirty" electronics companies to clean up their act.

And yesterday the group targeted Hewlett Packard in Switzerland, dispatching 15 activists to deliver a truckload of electronic waste to the company's European headquarters in Geneva. The activists piled the waste up at the entrance of the building and unfurled a banner that read "Hi-tech, Highly toxic".

A spokesman for Greenpeace said electronics companies like Hewlett-Packard, "are generating a new, fast growing hazardous waste stream that's causing problems of global proportions".

Greenpeace China campaigner, Kevin May, talking from Geneva said, as much as 4,000 tonnes of toxic e-waste is discarded every hour. "Unless they start making clean machines and take their products back when they're discarded, the planet's going to become a toxic trash bin," he said.

[image_library_tag 6342/HP-dump--Source--Greenpeace-Pierre-Virot.jpg' alt='HP dump. Source: Greenpeace, ,default]

The environmentalists say that since mobile phones, computers and other electronic products are made using toxic ingredients, workers at production sites are at risk of exposure and the products cannot be recycled safely when they are discarded.

Many scrap products are routinely and often illegally, Greenpeace says, shipped from Europe, Japan and the US to Asia because it is "cheaper and easier to dump the problem on countries that have poor environmental standards than to tackle it at home".

Greenpeace said it is conducting investigations into scrap yards in India and China, where it has found people taking the e-waste apart by hand and being exposed to a nasty cocktail of dangerous chemicals.

The INQUIRER reported on investigations in China in 2002, where, in Guiyu, in Guangdong Province, northeast of Hong Kong about 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America.

"The conditions in these yards are horrific," said Greenpeace International scientist, Kevin Brigden, yesterday. "In Guiyu, southeast China, I found acid baths leaching into streams. They were so acidic they could dissolve a penny in just hours. Many of the chemicals used in electronics are dangerous and can damage people even at very low levels of exposure."

The environmentalists say they have seen commitments from companies such as Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson to eliminate brominated flame retardants and PVC plastic from some of their products. It says Sony Ericsson has committed to removing them from all its products by the end of 2005, but Hewlett Packard, Apple, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, LG, Motorola, Panasonic, and Toshiba have made no such commitment.

Greenpeace produced a chart of 'good' and 'bad' electronnics companies here.

HP hadn't responded to our attempts to elicit a reaction at press time. µ

See also:
US "dumps computer waste on third world"


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