July 18, 2002

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Contacts: Robin Schneider
(512) 326-5655
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Shareholders, environmentalists, workers pressure Dell Computer to match company performance with environmental leadership
US consumers deserve same service offered in European, Japanese markets

Austin, TX - Dell Computer Corporation must match its outstanding corporate performance with industry leadership to solve the growing problem of discarded computers and consumer electronics threatening public health and the environment, according to environmental advocates, company shareholders, workers and others addressing the company at Thursday’s annual meeting at the Austin Convention Center.

“Dell Computer is a profit and market share leader among PC manufacturers, yet it is an environmental laggard relative to most of its global competitors,” says Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Our members are calling on Dell to take leadership in bringing about a sustainable solution to the problem of discarded computers and consumer electronics, so-called e-wastes. To safeguard public health, brand owners and manufacturers must take full responsibility for the life-cycle of their products, from clean production to take back at the end of their useful life and responsible recycling,” continues Schneider.

Texas Campaign for the Environment organized events outside Dell’s annual meeting to educate shareholders, media, and the general public about the e-waste problem and the importance of Dell Computer Corporation to an industry-wide solution. TCE is a lead organization in the national Computer TakeBack Campaign, co-coordinated by GrassRoots Recycling Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, pushing for producer responsibility for computers and consumer electronics through industry initiatives and state legislation.

E-wastes are among the fastest growing waste streams in the industrialized world, owing to growing sales and rapid pace of product obsolescence. Tens of millions of computers alone become obsolete in the US every year, with fewer than ten percent recycled. Because they contain lead, mercury, cadmium, flame retardant plastics and other materials, discarded electronics pose substantial threats to human health and the environment.

“As a Dell shareholder, I believe the company must match its outstanding performance as a company with industry leadership for environmental protection,” says Noah Hahn. “The environmental threats posed by improperly discarded electronics are a huge potential liability for the company. On the other hand, expanding the company’s asset recovery service to reclaim used computers from individuals and small businesses could be a source of new revenue,” continues Hahn.

“The American Friends Service Committee is deeply concerned when US corporations do nothing to stop the flow of toxic wastes that harms innocent people who have little knowledge of the dangers of electronic waste,” said Josefina Castillo, Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma Office. “Men, women and children in China and other developing countries are now at the receiving end of US waste. They do not have the information, equipment or the funds to properly recycle and dispose of this waste. Dell should show that its corporate success will not be at the expense of the health of poorer peoples of the world,” she added.

“I live near two of the largest landfills in Central Texas and I am very concerned about both the high volume of electronic waste that is building up and the heavy metals that will contaminate Austin’s groundwater from old electronics,” said Trek English of the Northeast Action Group. “In Europe and in Japan, Dell takes back used computers and equipment from all customers; I think American consumers deserve the same level of service and protection. Dell Computer operates in a global marketplace and standardizes their operations to maximize efficiency. Their policies and practices in the European market should be standard in the American market,” continues Ms. English.

The European Union has issued two directives relating to e-wastes; one requiring producer responsibility for take back of used equipment and the second requiring scheduled phase-out of hazardous materials (e.g., lead, mercury) from electronics. Dell’s entire product line is being re-designed to meet the EU’s strict requirements.

“The Computer TakeBack Campaign is targeting Dell because of its industry leadership, market share growth, and because the company is integral to an industry-wide solution,” says David Wood, program director with GrassRoots Recycling Network and organizing director of the Computer TakeBack Campaign. “An effective electronics producer responsibility program must apply equally to all brand owners. Some PC manufacturers interested in exploring take back solutions are hesitant and concerned about being put at a competitive disadvantage by Dell’s unique sales model.”

“The proposed plan by Dell to use Unicor prison labor for the recycling of personal computers is not an acceptable solution. Prison labor is not protected by occupational health and safety regulations. Furthermore, the cheaper rates paid to prison labor, undercut an opportunity for a vibrant recycling industry that results in economic development, jobs that pay workers a decent wage and provide the necessary safe working conditions,” said Leslie Byster, Communications Director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

“The US, at present, lacks the necessary infrastructure to safely recycle all the discarded computers and electronics in our homes, schools, and offices,” says TCE’s Schneider. “As a result, substantial quantities of products destined for ‘recycling’ are actually being shipped overseas to China and other countries for processing under horrific conditions. We need to ban the export of these wastes; we need companies to ensure that their recycling operations do not feed overseas waste markets; and we need producer responsibility in order to develop the required domestic recycling system. Dell’s leadership is key to making this happen,” continues Schneider.


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