Dell's Stance on Not Exporting e-Waste Is Not Heroic


CRTs piled more than 4 meters high in an imported e-Waste smuggling depot in Hong Kong's New Territories area. Photo via Basel Action Network
Buzzing around the blogosphere this week is news that Dell has implemented a policy to not export e-waste, but deal with it here. It's a great policy, no doubt, because it a) keeps the junk we create here, so that we have to deal with it properly and not allow it to poison other peoples; and b) it sets a level of accountability for Dell, now that they've voiced their stance. However, this does not by any stretch of the imagination make Dell some sort of superhero on e-waste, as they (and many blogs) are angling themselves to be.This policy should be a no-brainer across the board for every manufacturer and distributer who collects electronics for recycling and disposal. The fact that Dell can blast a press release saying they're implementing a policy that they'll actually take responsibility for what they collect and process it here (thereby creating jobs, a local resource for raw materials, and all sorts of good side effects) and that they'll get applauded for it is incredibly frustrating for any greenie wanting to see toxic e-waste dealt with the way it should be, across the board.

According to Dell:

Specifically Dell will not export (directly or via any vendors in its recycling downstream) any non-working electronic product from developed nations to developing nations for recycling, reuse, repair, or disposal. (The only exception is the export of products sent back to the original equipment manufacturers for warranty repairs).

Dell's policy is one part corporate responsibility, one part jab at lax government policy on e-waste export, and one part keeping-ahead-of-the-Joneses. (And note what appears to be a giant loophole - any "non-working electronic product" -- so if it's a device that still technically works but is junked, can it get exported for e-waste recycling? Here is the policy, so we can take a closer look. Check out page 4 for the specifics on how Dell defines e-waste.)

Ultimately, it's a great policy. There is no denying that - and they maintain great energy behind recycling. But it casts a giant spotlight on the fact that something as significant as dealing with e-waste properly is currently more of a chance to do some green marketing, than part of the daily lives of electronics manufacturers and retailers.

So the applause can only go so far before we switch over to saying, "Well, yeah...why wouldn't you be doing that?"

Via Dell Press Release

More on e-Waste
60 Minutes Reporter Attacked in Chinese E-Waste Pit
E-Waste A Growing Problem in UK Landfills
How Much eWaste Is Getting Recycled from Major Retailers?
Designing a 4th Bin for e-Waste

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Electronics | E-Waste | Gadgets | Recycling