Dell and HP India operations criticized for poor recycling programs

Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP) were criticized by Greenpeace for not implementing their product recycling services properly in India.

The two companies and Lenovo were slammed by Greenpeace earlier this year for an alleged broken promise to phase-out toxic chemical in 2009 products.

But the companies and analysts say that part of the reason why recycling hasn’t taken off in India is lack of interest from consumers. Canadian IT companies face recycling challenges as well.

The Dell India Web site, which is likely to be the first port of call for the company’s Indian customers, does not have information on take-back and recycling services, Greenpeace said on Wednesday.

Dell did not also respond appropriately when customers called up customer care in India with a request to take back and recycle their computers, a Greenpeace spokesman said. “They said the information is available online,” he said.

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HP, which started its recycling program for consumers as late as May this year, does not have enough collection centers in India, Greenpeace’s Toxics Campaigner Abhishek Pratap said on Wednesday.

“They have 17 collection centers in nine cities, when they should be having at least a 100 centers covering all the cities in India,” Pratap said.

Dell will work to improve its India web site to include a prominent link on recycling on its India web site, said Mahesh Bhalla, director and general manager for Dell’s consumer business in India, on Thursday. The information is already available on the recycling pages of Dell’s main site, to which there are links from the Dell India site.

Dell does not have collection centers, and instead offers to pick up computers at no cost from the homes of consumers, Bhalla added.

The criticism of the recycling programs of Dell and HP has however brought into focus the lack of readiness of the Indian market for such programs.

Consumers want a payment even for their old PCs, said Kapil Dev Singh, country manager at research firm IDC India. They would rather sell their computers to resellers or junk buyers than turn them in free for recycling, he added.

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Dell’s recycling program for consumers has not been very successful in India, possibly because users would rather gift their old computers, or sell it to a local dealer for a price, Bhalla said.

Awareness of the need to protect the environment through recycling is low among consumers, Singh said.

An HP spokesman said Thursday that it was increasing the number of collection centers. The Indian mindset of attaching a residual value to an end-of-life product has to change for consumers to start adhering to safe e-waste management practices, he added.

To provide its customers with an incentive to return old computers, Dell is now considering offering gift coupons or discounts on new purchases to customers returning their old computers, Bhalla added.

HP has launched a media campaign to create awareness amongst consumers on the need to recycle e-waste responsibly.

Greenpeace on Wednesday also criticized HP, Dell, and Lenovo worldwide for failing to adhere to commitments to eliminate hazardous substances like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of this year. Dell had to adjust its timetable as there aren’t viable alternatives for many of the components containing the chemicals that are used in its products, a spokeswoman said.

Indian PC vendor Wipro scored highest on Greenpeace’s Indian version of its Guide to Greener Electronics.

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