Category: Desktops

Greenpeace sees red over Dell's toxic record

Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner during a Greenpeace direct communication at Dell Computer May 26, 2010, in Round Rock, Texas. Photo by Harry Cabluck

Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner during a Greenpeace direct communication at Dell Computer May 26, 2010, in Round Rock, Texas. Photo by Harry Cabluck

It seems that Dell Computer is in the toxic hot-seat today. In a brazen publicity stunt, Greenpeace members managed to scale the walls of a building located on Dell’s Round Rock campus and then hung a banner declaring “Michael, what the Dell? Design out toxics.”

Greenpeace is hoping to draw attention to the fact that Dell has backtracked on a previous promise to eliminate all toxic chemicals from their products by 2009. Dell’s new timeline pushes back this commitment to 2011.
“Dell continues to sell products that are littered with toxic chemicals, despite promises made years ago to phase them out,” said Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner Casey Harrell. “Dell can’t fulfill its aim to be the greenest technology company on the planet until it follows the lead of Apple, HP and Indian brands HCL and Wipro, which are phasing out the use of these toxic chemicals.”

Greenpeace’s full-frontal assault on Dell won’t end with a banner that will likely be taken down by the time you read this. They are also taking their case to the court of public opinion via a  TV ad that will air in Austin, Texas on several channels, including MTV and ESPN, that “explains Dell’s backtracking”.

The spot asks Austin residents to call CEO Michael Dell and tell him to honor his company’s word to phase out toxic chemicals.

According to Greenpeace, two tech companies that are doing their part to get rid of the nasty ingredients found in consumer electronics are Apple and HP. Both of these tech giants have removed PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and BFRs (brominated flame retardants) from their new line of PCs. As a result, they have been ranked higher than Dell on the most recent edition of the quarterly Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics.

The top five companies on the list are Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Philips, Motorola and Apple, while the bottom five ranked companies are, in descending order: Toshiba, Fujitsu, Microsoft, Lenovo, and Nintendo.

I recently bought one of Dell’s new Inspiron Mini 10 netbook computers. Overall, I’m pleased with the gadget, especially when I consider it’s sub-$300 price tag. But I confess I did not take Dell’s environmental record into account when I made my purchase decision. There’s no question, the environment matters and I feel a little guilty at having played a role in damaging it further. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think that I’d have made a different decision, even knowing what I know now. When it comes time to retire my Mini 10, I’m hoping that Dell will take it back and recycle it responsibly, ensuring that none of these toxics make their way into our food chain.

What do you think? Does a company’s environmental track-record have an impact on your decision to buy their products? If Apple’s record was the same as Dell’s, would you hesitate ordering up a new iPad (okay maybe you would hesitate anyway, but that’s a post for another time). Let us know.