The Wide World of e-Waste

Dell and HP are under fire again from environmental watchdog Greenpeace, who accused the two IT manufacturers of not doing enough to support computer recycling in India. Greenpeace alleges that electronics recycling information is not available on Dell’s India Web site, even though customer service call centers routinely tell inquirers to search the site for information on recycling.

As for HP, Greenpeace says that the computer maker’s 17 e-scrap collection sites in the country are inadequate, and that at least 100 are needed. Both companies say they are working hard to improve electronics recycling in India, but say the reception they have gotten from consumers has lacked enthusiasm. Analysts for the two companies say most Indians prefer to be paid for their old electronics, as opposed to donating them to free recycling programs.

In a budgetary speech in June, Ugandan Finance Minister Syda Bbumba banned the importatation of scrap computers into the Central African nation. In the same speech, she extended a moratorium for goods in transit and for warehouses waiting to be cleared.

The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced a $7.3 million ($US) boost in funding for its PC recycling plan. The program will provide refurbished computers to 20,000 at-need students, as well as one year of free Internet access.

The U.K. Environment Agency is establishing a dedicated unit to enforce the government’s carbon reduction legislation, and help regulate WEEE recycling. The new unit will consist of approximately 50 auditors, who will have the authority to inspect WEEE processors’ premises, seize records and report findings to the office.

Staying in the U.K., officials are becoming increasingly concerned about organized crime’s involvement in e-scrap, in what The Guardian newspaper called “flagrant abuse of the WEEE Directive.” A recent raid netted 500 containers of WEEE scrap and computers slated for illegal export, stolen motorcycles and vehicles, stolen import documentation, an illegal immigrant and $131,000 ($US) worth of vodka and cigarettes.

Law enforcement officials are warning of a sharp increase in WEEE collection scams, where collected material is either unknowingly sold to an illegitimate broker, or laundered through similar channels to Africa, where material is scanned for personal or financial information, and then stripped of its valuable metals under appalling humanitarian and environmental conditions.

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