Dell bans e-waste export to developing countries
SEATTLE -- PC maker Dell formally banned on Tuesday the export of broken computers, monitors and parts to developing countries amid complaints that lax enforcement of environmental and worker-safety regulations have allowed an informal and often hazardous electronic-waste recycling industry to emerge.
Although Dell's announcement does not mark a significant change in the PC maker's behavior, environmental groups hope that by making its standards public, Dell will raise the bar for other electronics makers.
In the absence of U.S. regulations, those groups are banking on competitive pressure to make companies improve their e-waste practices.
"This is a very significant announcement," said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics Takeback Coalition, which has long pressured Dell and other electronics makers to improve their recycling programs. "It may seem like nuance, but what Dell's doing is drawing a very sharp and clear line and saying they won't cross it, in a way that is just much brighter and clearer than the way anyone else does it."
Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas, is the world's No. 2 maker of personal computers, behind Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network have tracked shipments of e-waste intended for recycling to countries such as China, Ghana and Nigeria and found computers, TVs and other electronics being dismantled by smashing or burning, exposing people to mercury, lead and other toxic chemicals.
No one knows exactly how much of the electronics turned over to recyclers ends up in such conditions, but Greenpeace and others say it could be 50% to 80% of the items collected in the U.S. for recycling.
That's despite broad acceptance of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that controls the movement of hazardous waste across borders. The U.S., which has no federal law against sending such e-waste to scrap dealers overseas, has yet to ratify the Basel Convention.
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