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Computer Recycling Programs Take Back Equipment; Manufacturers in Europe Face 2006 Deadline


New York, Jul 15, 2003

The speed of technological advances in the computer industry has become so familiar that consumers almost don’t mind the constant race to upgrade to the latest machine. However, as individuals and companies acquire new electronic products, they are faced with how to dispose of – or recycle – their previous equipment. Dell Computer, an American National Standards Institute member, recently announced the enhancement of its recycling campaign aimed at businesses and consumers. The computer maker will charge customers in the U.S. a fixed price to dispose of a computer, monitor, mouse and keyboard in a way that safeguards the environment and protects sensitive data.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), electronics are the fastest growing portion of America's trash, with 250 million computers destined to become obsolete by 2005. While take-back programs are just beginning in the U.S., two European Directives have set up laws concerning systems for collecting discarded electrical and electronic equipment, and the use of hazardous materials in products.

The Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Directive European Member states to introduce free take back of electronic waste and to ensure that equipment producers are responsible for financing the cost of collection, treatment, recovery and disposal.

The Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive requires that manufacturers cease using lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and the brominated flame retardants PBDE and PBB in products marketed after July 1, 2006 (there is a short list of exceptions).

In the U.S., Dell joins companies like Hewlett-Packard and Apple that already have recycling programs underway. Computer hardware, ink, and toner cartridges should be recycled because they can contain an average of 4 pounds of lead (depending on their size, make, and vintage) as well as other potential toxics like chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc, and brominated flame retardants. Moreover, many of the materials used to make electronics can be re-used in the production of new products, minimizing the amount of material that goes into landfills and the need for raw materials.

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