Tech giants boost recycling efforts

On the eve of Earth Day, Dell and Hewlett-Packard discount programs for reducing electronic waste. Photos: For old PCs, the end comes in pieces

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
Dell and Hewlett-Packard cut fees for their recycling programs this week, in advance of Friday's Earth Day observance.

Technology companies have come under growing pressure in the past few years to address the growing mounds of dangerous waste created by outdated computer hardware. Gear such as monitors and circuit boards are full of hazardous chemicals that can leach into the soil and groundwater if dumped into landfills. Groups such as the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative have successfully pushed computer makers to responsibly recycle more and more of their obsolete goods.

HP announced on Thursday that it was temporarily cutting in half the fees it charges customers to recycle old computer hardware. The promotion runs though May 31 and works in conjunction with a rebate program that gives customers as much as $50 off the price of new HP equipment if they recycle old gear through the company.

HP launched its recycling program for consumers several years ago, charging customers fees ranging from $17 to $46 to dispose of items such as monitors and printers. The company also has a free recycling program for printer supplies such as ink and toner cartridges.

HP said in a statement that it recycled 120 million pounds of used computer hardware and printer cartridges in 2004, boosting its total since 1987 to 616 million pounds. The company aims to have recycled a billion pounds of waste by the end of 2007.

Also Thursday, Dell cut prices for PC recycling for consumers and businesses.

The PC maker said that for a limited time it will pick up certain systems from large corporate customers for free. The offer applies to lots of 100 or more, and PCs have to be of fairly recent vintage--a Pentium III processor or higher for desktops, Pentium II for notebooks.

Dell has also indefinitely dropped recycling prices for consumers. The company is now charging $10 to ship a PC to Dell for recycling; previously, the PC maker charged $15. The company continues to offer free recycling of old equipment for customers who purchase a replacement desktop or notebook system.

Dell was the first major PC maker to subject its recycling program to public scrutiny, using the weight of goods recycled to measure its effectiveness in keeping old gear out of landfills.

Friday will mark the 35th celebration of Earth Day, which was founded by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Earth Day Network, the organization formed in 1970 to promote the then-new event, is coordinating Earth Day activities in 174 countries this year, the group says on its Web site.