Dell Canada Wednesday launched a national donation program to provide schools and non-profit organizations with used computers in an effort to keep old PCs out of landfills and increase access to computer technology.

Dell Canada

Inc.’s Web site will be the main way for consumers and small businesses to donate any brand of used computers. As an incentive, Dell Canada plans to give donors a coupon valued at 10 per cent that can be used towards the purchase of software and peripherals in its online store.

By 2005, the amount of disposed electronic junk from computers and peripherals will double to more than 67,000 tons in Canada alone, according to Environment Canada.

Moreover, the agency said, an estimated 4,740 tons of lead is found in personal computers and TVs thrown away each year in Canada, and by next year discarded PCs will contain an estimated 4.5 tons of cadmium and 1.1 tons of mercury.

As a founding member of Electronics Product Stewardship Canada, a non-profit group made up of several leading technology companies searching for environmentally friendly solutions for the country’s electronic waste problem, Dell Canada is working with governments to encourage a national policy allowing greater participation by the technology community, said Frank Fuser, director of services at Toronto-based Dell Canada.

Online donating is a natural fit with Dell’s business model of delivering computers via its Web site, said Fuser. Doing it alone is an “”expensive proposition,”” which is why Fuser hopes to encourage other EPS Canada member firms to band together in its Internet donating strategy and thereby accelerate the adoption of recycling computer technology.

Pat Nathan, sustainable business director at Dell Inc., said the Round Rock, Tex.-based company began this program — underscored by the motto that no computer should go to waste — at the behest of American environmental activists urging Dell to take responsiblity for the computers it helped to bring into the waste stream.

She said 30 per cent of customers surveyed by Dell have PCs stored in their closet that they haven’t chosen to donate or recycle.

Last year, Dell travelled throughout the U.S. and held recycling events, where it saw some cities like Denver, which produced 200 tons of waste for collection, enthusiastically embrace the donation philosophy, said Nathan.

Noranda, which works with all major printing, PC and copier companies, plans to break down unusable components from Dell Canada’s program and make the individual materials, such as copper, aluminum, lead and steel, available again for commercial use, explained Cindy Thomas, plant manager of Noranda Recycling in Brampton, Ont.

In its donation project, Dell Canada will also work with the National Cristina Foundation, an international charity that gives used technology to other non-profit groups and public agencies, Industry Canada’s Computers for Schools program, and reBOOT Canada, a non-profit providing computer hardware, training and technical support to charities.

Dell isn’t the only tech company to attempt by itself to tackle e-waste in Canada. HP Canada two years ago began a take-back equipment program in which it collected consumers’ and businesses’ used electronics. The service, which includes pick-up, transportation and evaluation for reuse, donation or recycling, covers products like PCs, printers, servers and scanners.

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