Indian activists return e-waste to source

Greenpeace activists sporting helmets made from monitors have dumped half a tonne of junked computers outside the headquarters of a major Indian IT manufacturer to highlight the growing problem of toxic e-waste.

The campaigners targeted corporate giant Wipro in Bangalore, the capital of the country’s electronics industry.

The waste, all from equipment originally made by Wipro, came from illegal recycling outfits in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore itself.

Greenpeace India’s Namrata Chowdhary told edie the demonstration had intended to raise awareness of the menace of dangerous chemicals being released into the environment during the recycling process.

A report published by the pressure group in August showed contamination from a cocktail of chemicals is occurring at every single stage of the recycling process (see related story).

According to Ms Chowdhary, the action had been a qualified success, as Wipro was now considering taking on board the NGO’s concerns.

“The company has said they will get back to us with a reviewed policy on extended producer responsibility and take-back, as well as on phasing out chemicals from their products” she told edie.

Ramapati Kumar, toxics campaigner for Greenpeace India, said a number of leading IT manufacturers were already designing many toxic components out of their hardware as well as looking at take-back mechanisms, proving progress was possible.

The Pollution Control Board of the West Coast state of Karnataka has already served notice to Wipro for having sent significant volumes of electronic waste to unauthorized recycling yards, where products are taken apart under appalling conditions, exposing workers and the environment to hazardous chemicals.

Mr Kumar said it was high time the company, an ‘iconic Indian brand’, put its reputation to good use and acted as an example of cleaner production and corporate responsibility.

By Sam Bond

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