IT Producers Must Manage E-waste, Says Computer Aid

A report from Computer Aid International calls for IT manufacturers to take full responsibility for the environmental cost of their products.

The paper, called 'Green ICT: what producers must do', says IT manufacturers should take environmental responsibility for their products throughout their entire lifecycle, including the end-of-life management of their goods, in all countries they operate and "not just in rich developed countries".

Computer Aid refurbishes donated computer equipment and ships it to poorer countries for re-use.

Tony Roberts, CEO of Computer Aid International, said: "In Europe all ICT manufacturers, including HP, Samsung, Nokia and Apple, have a legal duty to fund the end-of-life-recycling of equipment that they produced. However, we would argue that they have exactly the same moral obligations where their products are sold in Africa, Asia and elsewhere."

The report points out that most developing countries do not have the facilities necessary to recycle ICT hardware or recover precious metals and other composite materials before they pollute the environment and threaten public health and safety.

Therefore, the report recommends that Europe's Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle should be extended globally.

The report says:

- Producers should be responsible for the end-of-life management of their goods in all countries they operate in, not just in rich developed countries, so all nations can build the operational capacity to re-use IT equipment and to recycle e-waste

- The cost of toxic, wasteful design should be moved away from communities and the environment to the producer

- Producers must adopt wide-ranging EPR programmes that encourage eco-design

Haley Bowcock, environmental advocacy officer at Computer Aid, said: "The growing e-waste crisis demands of us a fundamental rethink of how we design, use and dispose of electronic equipment. ICT and other electronics manufacturers are really in the hot seat to lead a new resourcing paradigm by making longer-lasting products which are easier to repair and upgrade and eventually recycle."

She said EPR programmes encourage this as they ensure communities "aren't picking up the tab for toxic wasteful design".

Greenpeace published its ICT environmental leadership list earlier this year, which saw Cisco Systems at the top of it, and Toshiba and Sony near the bottom.

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