All too often, electronic waste from rich countries ends up in the landfills of less developed nations. Greenpeace estimates that a staggering 50% to 80% of all e-waste exported for recycling ends up being shipped to the Far East, India, Africa, and China, where laws to protect people (and the environment) from the repercussions of taking apart toxic electronics are virtually nonexistent. So we’re happy to report that HP has taken a stand against this practice by banning e-waste exports from “developed (member) countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (E.U.) to developing (non-OECD/E.U.) countries, either directly or through intermediaries.” In other words, HP will no longer dump its e-waste in poor countries.
Under the new policy, some electronics can still be exported to developing countries. Non-hazardous materials, electronics intended for donation or resale, and components that are being returned to the manufacturer under warranty can all still be shipped out. But toxin-filled computers destined to be taken apart by children in scrap yards? Not under HP’s watch.
The electronics giant isn’t the first to voluntarily reject e-waste exports to developing nations. Dell announced in May that it planned to become the first big computer manufacturer to implement the policy. Now that two computing heavy hitters have denounced exports, it probably won’t be long before other manufacturers try to catch up. But until the U.S. government takes steps to make exported e-waste illegal, the practice will undoubtedly continue.