Greenpeace Slams High-Tech Firms for 'E-Waste' in China
BEIJING The international environmental group Greenpeace slammed American and Japanese electronics giants on Monday for making computers or phones with parts that harm the health of Chinese people who recycle them.
Using a 2.7-meter-high sculpture built from discarded electronic products and a special exhibit booth at the annual China Beijing High-Tech Expo, Greenpeace accused nine foreign electronics firms of using carcinogenic parts, such as flame retardants, in their computers or mobile phones. Non-toxic substitutes are easy to find, the group says.
Targeted companies include Motorola Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Toshiba Corp., Hewlett-Packard Development Co. and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers. International Business Machines Corp., Dell Inc. and South Korea's LG Electronics are also on the Greenpeace list.
Chinese companies may also be generating the so-called e-waste from discarded electronic products, said Beijing-based Greenpeace toxics campaigner Yue Yihua.
Major electronics companies too often use brominated flame retardants and PVC plastics in their computers or phones, Yue said at a press conference. She said discarded electronics are illegally shipped into China, where workers separate reusable metal, for sale to unknown buyers, from plastics, which are incinerated.
Nationwide e-waste statistics do not exist, Greenpeace says, since 47 percent of e-waste is traded illegally, much of it routed through Hong Kong to processing sites in mainland China. But the government has said that 5 million computers were discarded in the capital Beijing last year.
Workers exposed to hazardous parts can get cancer or neurological disorders, Yue said. She said sites known for e-waste processing include the Guiyu site in Guangdong Province and Taizhou in Zhejiang Province, both in southern China. India, the Philippines and other developing countries also receive hazardous e-waste.
China lacks national laws on e-waste, though some local governments have related regulations, Yue said.
"In developing countries, the laws are weaker and labor is cheap," Yue said. "Electronics companies that use toxics and fail to take back products are irresponsible and bad for the environment." Also Monday, 15 Greenpeace activists demonstrated outside the Hewlett Packard offices in Geneva, showing employees a pile of e-waste collected in China and a banner reading "high tech, highly toxic." Hewlett-Packard's spokesman in Geneva could not be reached for comment, but the Silicon Valley-based company said last month it was meeting in-house goals to reduce e-waste in response to demands from American consumers.
The company said on April 21 it had recycled more than 120 million pounds of used computer hardware and printer cartridges internationally in 2004. Its cumulative recycling total since 1987 is 616 million pounds, and it plans to recycle 1 billion pounds by the end of 2007.
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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News