Dell, the world's second largest PC manufacturer, announced earlier this month that it is imposing a ban on the export of used equipment bearing its name to developing countries " unless the equipment is in full working order and intended for legitimate use.
The idea is to undermine the huge trade in e-waste, too much of which ends up in giant trash piles in Africa, India and China, from where it is dismantled, burned, treated with corrosive chemicals and otherwise persuaded to give up tiny amounts of chemicals that can be sold on. The big question is why all the other manufacturers don't have a similar policy.
I've seen these toxic waste operations in action. They call it recycling, but it's extremely damaging. In an industrial wasteland outside New Delhi in India, I watched as children as young as eight dunked bare circuit boards in acid to create a residue of copper for sale to a local works. Child labour? You bet. Health and safety? You have to be joking.
A family of migrant boys from Bihar, India's poorest state, told me they got used to the acrid fumes that had them coughing and giddy within minutes of coming on the job. "At the end of the day we have a strong drink and we are OK," one laughed. It's an evil trade. But how do you stop it?...<cont>