HP draws Greenpeace ire in India

Greenpeace has protested against HP for not having a hardware take-back service for consumers in India.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has been targeted by Greenpeace in India for not offering a service there for recovering used equipment from consumers.

Greenpeace activists staged a protest Tuesday outside HP's offices in Bangalore, demanding that the company offer a take-back service for consumers in the next two weeks. They also want HP to lobby publicly for e-waste legislation in India and take an active role in drafting new e-waste legislation.

India generated 330,000 metric tonnes of e-waste last year, with a further 50,000 tonnes from developed countries also being dumped there, according to a December report by the Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology (MAIT) in Delhi and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), a German group focused on sustainable development.

India has no legislation controlling e-waste aside from broad guidelines issued by its pollution control board, said Ramapati Kumar, a Greenpeace toxics campaigner. The guidelines are not mandatory and place no responsibility on the producers, he said.

About 75 percent of the e-waste generated within India comes from branded products like computers, mobile phones, and television sets, Kumar said. The companies that sell the products should take responsibility for their proper disposal, he added.

A spokeswoman for HP said Tuesday that the company already has a take-back service for corporate customers in India and that it planned to extend this to consumers by early next year.

"It is not simple to implement a take-back scheme because the culture of returning hardware does not exist in India," the spokeswoman said. Users are reluctant to return equipment and prefer to sell it to unorganized buyers or give it away to friends and relations, she said.

"In India, used hardware is still perceived as a value rather than cost," she said.

HP launched its take-back scheme for corporate users in India as far back as 2003 but it had few takers at the time, the spokeswoman said. It re-launched the service, called the Planet Partners Hardware Recycling Program, in June. It offers to take back both HP and non-HP equipment including PCs, monitors, servers and printers, as well as peripherals such as mice and keyboards.

HP is working with MAIT to craft new e-waste legislation and to lobby the Indian government for appropriate laws, the spokeswoman said.

Greenpeace activists, however, hold that HP's support for e-waste legislation is half-hearted.

HP may now advance the date for the launch of its take-back service for consumers, the spokeswoman said.

Greenpeace has targeted high-profile companies in India before. In 2005, activists dumped some 500 kilograms of electronic waste outside the Bangalore headquarters of Wipro Ltd., one of the country's large outsourcing companies and a PC maker.

The activists said they had collected the Wipro-branded computers from recycling yards in Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. About six months later Wipro announced a free e-waste disposal service.

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