China Environmental News Digest

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Greenpeace protests at HP China over electronic waste

By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service,December 08, 2005 Activists from environmental advocacy group Greenpeace China held a small protest outside Hewlett-Packard's office in Beijing on Wednesday to highlight the harmful environmental impact of waste from PC electronics and peripherals.

As part of the protest, activists delivered postcards and electronics waste recovered from a dump site in Guiyu, a town in China's southeastern Guangdong province, to HP (Profile, Products, Articles) China, according to a statement posted on Greenpeace's Web site. The statement included a picture of three Greenpeace activists wearing white environmental protection suits emblazoned with the slogan "HP stop using poisonous materials!" written in blue Chinese characters.

The publicity stunt in Beijing was meant to highlight the environmental impact of electronics waste to HP employees, Greenpeace said.

"Greenpeace believes that most HP employees are unaware of how their products become toxic e-waste and pollute the environment in scrapping yards like Guiyu, in China. Armed with information we believe they will ask their managers to stop manufacturing such products," said Zhao Yang, a Greenpeace China representative, quoted on the organization's Web site.

Greenpeace activists also protested outside HP's U.S. headquarters in Palo Alto, California, where they flew a large orange balloon that held aloft a banner with a picture of a Chinese girl holding a scrap HP keyboard, the group said.

"HP is disappointed that Greenpeace has chosen not to recognize HP’s commitment to designing environmentally sound products and managing electronic waste responsibly," the company said in a statement. HP has eliminated the use of some harmful materials from its products and continues to look for ways to reduce or eliminate the use of others, it said.

Many old PCs and other electronics products end up at dump sites and recycling facilities in developing countries, such as China and India, where workers salvage what they can of value, such as solder and other materials. In a report published in August, Greenpeace said these facilities and their surrounding areas often have dangerous levels of environmental contamination caused by metals and chemicals used to manufacture electronic devices.

The Greenpeace China protest comes at a time of heightened awareness and sensitivity in China over environmental damage caused by the country's rapid economic development.

In November, the northeastern city of Harbin, home to roughly 4 million people, had its water supply shut off for five days because of a chemical accident at a plant in Jilin that dumped tons of dangerous chemicals into the Songhua river. Public anger at initial attempts by government officials to cover up the pollution resulted in the firing of officials at the chemical plant and the resignation of the top official at China's State Environmental Protection Administration.

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