Dell launches green offensive in Emerald Isle

The PC maker is aiming to win some environmental kudos in Europe ahead of the introduction of stricter rules on hardware recycling

Dell is going on a green-tinted offensive in Europe before the widespread adoption of stringent rules on hardware recycling by EU member states.

The computer maker's first strike will be a free computer recycling day at its European manufacturing site in Limerick, Ireland, on 25 September.

A company spokesperson could not confirm on Wednesday whether similar events will be held in the UK in the near future but said the Limerick event is the first stop in a Europe-wide recycling tour which follows a similar event in the US. The US tour visited 17 cities over the last 12 months with the company claiming to have collected nearly 1,000 tons of unwanted computer equipment from over 70,000 participants.

Dell is inviting the public to drop off old computer and equipment of any make or model for free, which will then be recycled by a UK-based disposal company.

The Limerick event is mainly aimed at consumers but will also be open to small businesses as long as a quota of five computers per car is not exceeded, the company said in a statement.

"As computers have become more common in many Irish homes, there is a growing concern about the environmental impact of old computers when they are disposed of," said Nick Hartey, Dell's vice president of European manufacturing.

The event coincides with increased attention given to technology recycling ahead of the introduction of the European Waste and Electrical and Equipment (WEEE) directive.

The main aim of WEEE is to make manufacturers and consumers more responsible for the disposal of old equipment. Analyst Gartner believes costs will ultimately be passed on to end-user organisations. In a recent research note, EU's New Recycling Rules could Drive Up European PC Prices, the analyst group estimated that legal changes could add $60 to the price of PCs in Europe by 2005.

"From 2004, budgets should incorporate the costs of equipment disposal. From 2005, budgets should be allocated for a separate recycling fee. This will most likely be included in the purchase price of new PCs," said Gartner

The final draft of the WEEE directive was issued by the DTI in early August. The industry has been given until 29 October to respond to the draft before the European directive is finally enacted into the UK statute books later this year. But WEEE will not come into affect until August 2005 and the first targets for collection, recycling and recovery are in 2008.

The Fifth Annual Computer Report Card, issued in May by the US environmental organisation Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition (SVTC), claims that the number of obsolete machines in the US could be as a high as 600 million -- containing up to 1.2 billion pounds of lead.

"The health effects of lead on children are well known and just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate 20 acres of lake," the report claimed.

The group also estimates that about 40 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including lead, mercury and cadmium, comes from discarded electronic devices. "Discarded computer and other consumer electronics (so called e-waste) is the fastest growing portion of our waste stream -- growing almost three times faster than our overall municipal waste stream," the report added.

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