WAUKESHA COUNTY
E
NVIRONMENTAL
ACTION LEAGUE
Protecting Waukesha County's Natural Resourses since 1978

WEAL

Representing the Waukesha County community for the protection of Waukesha County's natural resources through dedicated grass-roots participation and action.

News Release on Computer Recycling
For Release: Contact:
10:00 a.m. January 9, 2003

Cassie Wyss (608) 232-1830 OR:
Charlene Lemoine (262)-574-7568

Media Release

Environmental Report Card shows computer companies fail the 3Rs – Reducing toxics, Recovering obsolete products, and Recycling responsibly

Report Card release sets stage for state computer recycling legislation in Wisconsin

Waukesha, Wisconsin: A national coalition of environmental groups, including Wisconsin-based Waukesha County Environmental Action League, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, and the GrassRoots Recycling Network, joined together today in releasing the Computer TakeBack Campaign’s annual Computer Report Card, as part of a national campaign that charges the personal computer industry with turning its back on a massive toxic trash crisis that it has created, endangering US cities, passing hidden costs to local taxpayers, damaging the environment and threatening public health around the world.

"Computers and consumer electronics contain heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and mercury, as well as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), mixed plastics, dioxin-like flame retardants and dozens of other compounds with known or suspected adverse impacts on human health," says David Wood, organizing director for the national Computer TakeBack Campaign. "The fruits of our high tech revolution are pure poison if these products are improperly disposed of at the end of their useful life. With as many as 500 million obsolete computers alone, the need for meaningful action by brand owners to prevent a toxic waste crisis grows larger every minute," continues Wood.

Despite growing public awareness of the problems associated with discarded personal computers and consumer electronics (so-called "e-waste") and new momentum for policy reforms, U.S. computer companies still lag seriously behind their Japanese competitors on broad measures of environmental performance. U.S. companies like Dell Computer Corporation have turned to public relations campaigns instead of adapting their business model to address the problem.

"Electronics manufacturers are dragging their heels here in the US," says Charlene Lemoine, Waste Issues Representative for Waukesha County Environmental Action League.. "In Europe, computer companies, activists, and governments are implementing a system based on producer take back of all discarded equipment. We want those same computer companies selling here in the U.S. to treat American consumers as least as well as they treat Europeans. The double standard has got to go."

The Computer Report Card provides consumers, policy-makers, and activists with a tool to measure the environmental performance of companies that produce and market computer equipment. In all, twenty-eight (28) manufacturers and brand owners were evaluated on four broad measures of environmental performance:

  • use of hazardous materials
  • take-back programs for used and obsolete equipment
  • worker health and safety
  • ease of access to information

Raw data was obtained from the companies’ web sites and supplemented by follow up surveys. Japanese firms continued to dominate the Report Card’s environmental rankings, returning 8 of the top 10 scores. Among U.S. firms, only IBM and Apple made the top ten. Only one company, Japan’s Fujitsu, managed a score that broke the fifty-percent mark (51.5%, or a score of 35 out of 68 total points). *See attachment for individual company scores.

"This report definitely has relevance here in Wisconsin," says Cassie Wyss, midwest organizer for the GrassRoots Recycling Network. At present, the costs and burden of managing discarded electronics often falls to taxpayers and local governments, who have the least power to compel manufacturers to do anything. And this e-waste problem is surfacing just as state and local governments, like Wisconsin’s, are facing unprecedented deficits and budget shortfalls. Producers must take responsibility."

Coordinated releases of the Computer Report Card are taking place in nearly two-dozen metro areas around the country, linked to activities being staged at the 2003 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and to the launch of the Campaign’s main web site, www.computertakeback.com where the Report Card and other materials are available.

The Computer TakeBack Campaign is a national coalition of organizations promoting clean production and producer take back in the computer and consumer electronics industries. Co-coordinated by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and GrassRoots Recycling Network, the Campaign’s market-based strategy targets Dell Computer while its policy strategy is advancing substantially similar legislation in as many as ten states. The Campaign seeks to protect the public health and the environment from the hazards of high-tech products by requiring brand owners to take financial responsibility for the life-cycle impacts of their products.

Legislation in Wisconsin based on the Campaign’s model bill is being drafted for submission during the upcoming session.

"State and local leadership will make the difference, which is why Waukesha County Environmental Action League has joined groups in eighteen states calling on computer companies to ‘take it back, make it clean, and recycle responsibly," said Waste Issues Representative, Charlene Lemoine.

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Attachment #1:

 

COMPUTER REPORT CARD EXPLANATION AND RANKINGS:

The Report Card scores are out of a possible maximum of 68, based on a 0-4 numerical score applied to each of 17 different criteria relating to the companies’ U.S. practices.

Passing:

Fujitsu (Japan; 35/68 [51%])

Need Improvement:

Canon (Japan; 33/68 [49%])

IBM (U.S.; 32)

NEC (Japan; 31)

Toshiba (Japan; 31)

Matsushita/Panasonic (Japan; 30)

Seiko Epson (Japan; 30)

Sony (Japan; 30)

Apple (U.S.; 28)

Poor:

Hitachi (Japan; 26/68 [38%])

HP/Compaq (U.S.; 23)

Oki (Japan; 22)

Failing:

Brother (Japan; 19/68 [28%])

Dell (U.S.; 19)

Sharp (Japan; 18)

Samsung (Korea; 17)

Micron (U.S.; 14)

Lexmark (U.S.; 14)

Philips (Europe; 12)

Viewsonic (U.S.; 7)

Lucky Goldstar (Korea; 4)

e-machines (U.S.; 3)

Acer (Taiwan; 2)

Gateway (U.S.; 2)

AST (Taiwan; 1)

Daewoo (Korea; 0)

NEC International (Europe; 0)

Wyse Technologies (Taiwan; 0)