A recent campaign launched by Greenpeace to draw attention to electronics waste that targeted Hewlett-Packard as a major offender is being refuted by the manufacturer, which says it considers itself an industry leader in addressing the problem.
As the electronics industry has grown, so too
has e-waste, and the ever-shortening upgrade and replacement cycle has only exacerbated the problem. According to a report from the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average computer lifespan has dropped from six years in 1997 to two years in 2005.
“”It’s the largest amount of waste produced and dumped in landfills around the world,”” said Zeina Al-Hajj, who is coordinating the e-waste campaign for Greenpeace International. “”It’s also very toxic and hazardous, and it all seems to be ending up in Asia, where it is causing serious environmental and health problems.””
Al-Hajj said the problem is manufacturer’s that are focused on production, without consideration for the toxicity of their products.
“”We want companies to change their designs so their products don’t contain hazardous materials and don’t become waste in one or two years, but can be upgraded and reused.””
Greenpeace has been working quietly on the issue for two years, securing commitments from Samsung, Sony, Sony Ericsson and Nokia to eliminate toxic flame-retardants and PVC plastic from some of their products. Al-Hajj said HP was targeted in the recent campaign because talks with HP failed to yield a similar commitment.
“”HP’s Pavilion computer had the highest level of brominated flame retardant, one of the hazardous chemicals that is proven scientifically to cause harm for the workers who work in production and for recyclers who work in the scrap yards.””
The public pressure led to a preliminary meeting between Greenpeace and HP, and Al-Hajj said negotiations and discussions are ongoing.
While they obviously disagree on HP’s role in the problem, both HP and Greenpeace share similar views on the problem of e-waste and what needs to be done to combat it. Frances Edmonds, manager of recycling, environmental health and safety for HP Canada, said HP has eliminated a range of substances from its products, including cadmium, arsenic, lead and a number of flame-retardants. Edmonds also said HP is a strong believer in extended producer responsibility.
“”We believe very strongly there should be regulation in this area,”” says Edmonds. “”We’re actively working with government to look at e-waste and develop policy.””