Electronic Design

Hi-Tech -- Highly Toxic

Greenpeace tells electronics industry leaders to clean up

Hannover, Germany, 8 March 2006 —As electronic industry leaders gather in Hannover today at the world’s largest electronics fair, CeBit, Greenpeace activists erected a giant robot, at the main entrance, made from electronic components to remind them that while the industry promotes ever-faster, smaller and smarter gadgets it cannot continue to ignore the mountain of toxic waste coming from their products nor the serious environmental and concerns for human health consequences.

Greenpeace is calling on the electronic industry to eliminate the most hazardous toxic chemicals from its products and for it to move to "clean production." Some companies are beginning to rise to the challenge. Last week industry leader Hewlett Packard, which has been the focus of Greenpeace’s electronic waste campaign, announced a plan to eliminate a range of hazardous chemicals from their products.

"CeBit is the industry’s shining technological temple, with thousands of exhibits dedicated to how clever it is in meeting the challenges of the information age, yet not one single exhibit exists showing the human and environmental tragedy of the deadly trade in electronic waste. The industry cannot continue to hide from the shame of electronic waste scrapping yards in India and China," said Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner, Martin HojsÌk, at CeBit.

"Today, at CeBIT, Greenpeace is asking who is next? Who is next to begin cleaning up their act? Who is next to be the focus of our campaign?"

The Greenpeace robot contains video display units showing images of the appalling conditions in Asia’s electronic waste scrapping yards. "Today we are showing images of the impact of toxic electronic waste, or e-waste, flooding into and polluting developing countries, primarily Asia, which you will not see in the glossy electronics industry PR material. It is outrageous to see such images of people trashing our high-tech electronics products in a low-tech primitive way: to see them damaging their health and environment," said HojsÌk.

Concentrations of lead in dust samples collected by Greenpeace from "recycling" workshops in China were found to be hundreds of times higher than typical levels of household dusts. Dust collected from the homes of two electronic waste recycling workers in China had higher levels of heavy metals, particularly lead, compared to dust collected from a neighboring house with no link to e-waste recycling. The levels of lead in dust collected from electronic waste recycling workshops in India were approximately 5-20 times above background levels.

Companies like Hewlett Packard, LGE, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson have made commitments to eliminate the use of some hazardous chemicals in the near future. Other companies like Acer, Apple, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba have so far failed to commit.

"The motto for this year’s CeBit is ‘digital solutions for work and life’, Greenpeace wants next year’s motto to be ‘digital solutions without pollution’," said HojsÌk.

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