Dell launches computer recycling program

After becoming the target of angry environmental and workers rights groups, Dell Computer launched a recycling campaign July 9 aimed at businesses and public customers, including governments, schools, and health care institutions.

The nation’s largest computer maker will charge customers as little as $49 to dispose of computers safely—without dumping hazardous materials in landfills in the U.S. or in developing countries.

As part of an “Asset Recovery” program, Dell executives reiterated their promise to stop using prison labor to recycle computers, which contain dangerous, brain-damaging chemicals.

Until recently, Dell shipped used computers to UNICOR, a self-sustaining corporation that uses prison laborers, part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Washington-based UNICOR employs 1,100 convicts in recycling, paying them 20 cents to $1.26 per hour.

Kate Krebs, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition, said she was “thrilled” with Dell’s program, which includes a web site where customers can sign up and pay for recycling.

As part of the recycling, Dell will also strip hard drives of confidential data. The company will remove asset tags and other sensitive information in a cleansing process called “three times data override.”

Customers who want added protection—such as hospitals that store patient data—can pay more for destruction of hard drives.

Executives at Round Rock, Texas-based Dell said the program had little to do with a report in June by the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which criticized Dell’s earlier efforts as “primitive.”

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