If Iron Eyes Cody, the legendary celluloid American Indian of the '70s who came to symbolize the ecology movement, were alive today, he might shed a heartfelt tear over the problem of what to do with aging computing equipment. One environmental group estimates that the number of obsolete U.S. computers could bury Los Angeles under 22 feet of technological waste.
Dell and Hewlett-Packard last week expanded their recycling programs for consumers. Dell offers free home pickup of obsolete computers, and HP is sponsoring collection events. For businesses, Dell will resell, recycle, or donate equipment for a price beginning at about $25 per unit. HP charges a shipping and handling fee of $14 to $31 to consumers and commercial customers, but consumers are entitled to rebates.
Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Computer Takeback Campaign, welcomes the efforts but says they fall far short. When comparing the recycled volumes reported by HP and Dell in 2005 to their sales of seven years ago, that volume represents only 6.2% and 9.7%, respectively, of the hardware sold by the companies. Kyle's advice to businesses: Incorporate an asset retirement plan into the initial purchase price.