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[greenyes] New report on Dell and prison labor gets good coverage

I wanted to make sure that folks on the GRRN list serve see the NYT story this morning about our report "A tale of two systems"? I'm also attaching a copy of the AP wire story that was run by the SJ Mercury and dozens of other papers around the country this morning. The report raises disturbing questions about Dell's reliance on prison labor to recycle their computers. We are concerned that by doing so, they are following the low road that will put many commercial recyclers out of work.

Please circulate it to anyone else that you think might appreciate it.


Ted Smith
2 PC Makers Given Credit and Blame in Recycling
June 27, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO, June 26 - The nation's two largest personal computer makers, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, handle recycling of the waste from computer products in remarkably different ways, according to a report by environmentalists released today. The report was prepared by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a group that also focuses on health issues, and the Computer Take Back Campaign. It commended Hewlett-Packard for using "state of the art" practices in partnership with an expanding commercial recycling industry, while criticizing Dell for using low-cost prison labor in association with Unicor, an industrial prison system within the Justice Department. The report was issued on the second day of a series of meetings now being held by the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to set standards for recycling consumer electronics and computer technology parts. Until last year, most electronic waste, from products like television sets and computers, had either gone directly into landfills or been shipped to Asian countries, including China, India and Pakistan, for recycling. The environmental organizations said that the extensive use of the prison system by Dell and others is a significant obstacle to the creation on a profitable recycling industry. "Our interest is in building a high-quality recycling infrastructure in the United States," said Ted Smith, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. "There are two obstacles to that: one is the export industry, which sends materials to Asia, and the other is the growing reliance on prison labor." The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' program disputed the conclusions of the report and said that seven prison factories handle only about 36 million pounds of the billion pounds of equipment that he estimated are disposed of annually in the United States. "There are over 500 recyclers in the United States, and we're not a major player by any means," said the director, Lawrence M. Novicky, general manager of the Recycling Business Group for Unicor. He said that the California Environmental Protection Agency had inspected Unicor's installation in Atwater, Calif., as recently as Monday and found no health violations. The environmental report commends a nine-year effort by Hewlett-Packard, in partnership with Noranda, a Canadian mining company that supports plants recycling 3.5 million to 4 million pounds of electronic equipment a month in Roseville, Calif., and Nashville. At the same time, the report - titled "Corporate Strategies for Electronic Recycling: A Tale of Two Systems," and available on the Web at - is sharply critical of Dell's decision to rely significantly on prison labor. It notes that inmates who work at the prison recycling operation are paid 20 cents to $1.26 an hour and are not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The authors said they were permitted a tour of a recycling operation at the Atwater prison, but prison officials would not allow a California state health and safety expert to take part. They also said they were not permitted to speak with prisoners. Only after four months of complaints, the authors said, did Unicor agree to allow the state to inspect the installation. The report criticized Unicor's "primitive" practice of manually smashing leaded monitors, which it said exposed workers to toxic chemicals as well as potential injuries. It cited a letter from an Atwater prisoner, who wrote: "Even when I wear the paper mask, I blow out black mucus from my nose every day. The black particles in my nose and throat look as if I am a heavy smoker. Cuts and abrasions happen all the time. Of these the open wounds are exposed to the dirt and dust and many do not heal as quickly as normal wounds." Dell Computer disputed the accusations in the report, saying that the recycling operations met environmental standards and that the prison population benefited from them. "Our goal is keeping all of our recycling offers as low cost as possible," a spokesman, Bryant Hilton, said. "Unicor is part of the answer." He added that the work program was voluntary, not forced, and that inmates who took part in it had a 24 percent lower recidivism rate than the rest of the prison population. Dell officials also disputed the contention that the prison labor recycling effort undercut the formation of an American recycling industry. "There is currently not enough capacity for electronics recycling in the United States," Mr. Hilton said. "Unicor is not driving anyone out of business." Both Hewlett-Packard and Dell have been increasing options for consumers to return old computers as well as using the programs for marketing purposes. Hewlett began a program last year, agreeing to pick up computers at a home or place of business, and Dell started a similar program in March.

Jun 26, 7:59 PM EDT

Group Criticizes Dell'E-Waste' Program

AP Business Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Dell's "primitive" recycling system exposes prison laborers to dangerous chemicals and thwarts the company's hallmark efficiency, an advocacy group says, while Hewlett-Packard's modern plants protect workers and the environment.

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition's "Tale of Two Systems" study compared the divergent ways America's top computer makers deal with the growing problem of hazardous "e-waste." The report, published Thursday, coincided with the start of a two-day meeting in Washington for manufacturers, retailers and government agents sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dell and dozens of other companies pay subcontractors that rely on U.S. prisoners for low-cost recycling. Low-paid inmates handle cathode ray tubes and other unsafe byproducts of the U.S. technology industry.

Environmentalists and workers groups are demanding that companies build state-of-the-art recycling facilities in the United States and dispose of toxins with minimal impact on workers or the environment.

"We scream bloody murder when other countries use prison labor, yet here we are under our own noses seeing this becoming one of the fastest growing industries," said Ted Smith, executive director of the San Jose-based coalition.

Dell complies with worker safety standards mandated by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, company spokesman Bryant Hilton said. He denied claims that Dell, a Wall Street darling because of its highly efficient computer manufacturing system, used prison labor simply to cut costs.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell outsources recycling work 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.

"It operates differently than a commercial recycler, but they meet the same criteria we'd put on any of our recyclers," Hilton said. "Our goal is to make recycling affordable and easy."

Lawrence M. Novicky, general manager of UNICOR's recycling business group, called SVTC's study "deeply flawed" and "disturbing."

Novicky questioned why SVTC profiled only two companies, noting that more than 500 manufacturers recycle electronics in the United States - and many feature equipment similar to that used by UNICOR.

"I can only conclude that this document was created to support preconceived positions, not to present the truth about how UNICOR is helping to both recycle millions of computers and give thousands of people needed technical skills and a new chance to become productive members of society," Novicky wrote in an angry letter to Smith.

According to SVTC, some of the 240 recyclers at a penitentiary in Atwater toil in a "caged area" where they smash cathode ray tubes with hammers - a "primitive" system that exposes them to dangerous chemicals and broken glass. SVTC investigators said UNICOR would not provide air quality test results.

SVTC criticized UNICOR for forcing inmates to pack and unpack, stack and unstack recycled computers several times before the e-waste leaves the compound.

The report, published with the Computer TakeBack Campaign, praised HP's seven-year-old Micro Metallics plant in Roseville, Calif., similar to one in Nashville, Tenn.

Roseville encourages worker feedback, minimizes exposure to chemicals, and pays $8 to $13 per hour, plus benefits. Mechanical shredders replace hammers. Vacuums replace brooms, which are banned because they may raise dust containing lead or bromiated flame retardants.

Renee St. Denis, who manages the Roseville plant, said HP's $10 million investment in Roseville and Nashville made it more expensive than many recycling options. But she said it may help HP save money by avoiding fines states impose on polluters.

At least 25 states have introduced "end-of-life" management policies for computers, televisions and other electronics. California, Massachusetts and Minnesota have banned from local land mines many hazardous materials in computers.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments and questions

At 08:23 AM 6/27/2003 -0700, you wrote:
Good morning Ted,

One of our staff members Stephen Bantillo is a board member with NRC if you
want more info.  Chances are you are already in the loop, but I hate to

Have a great day! Michele

>  -----Original Message-----
> From:         Dunn, Cynthia
> Sent: Friday, June 27, 2003 7:48 AM
> To:   ESD - IWM Select; Ciprian, Jordan; Foster, Michael; Ledesma, Paul;
> Matuszak, Debra; Walsh, Matthew
> Subject:      Dell, NRC to issue computer recycling best
> from waste news 6/27/03:
> Dell, NRC to issue computer recycling best
>                practices guide
>                WASHINGTON (June 26) -- The National Recycling Coalition
> and Dell Computer Corp.
>                announced a partnership June 26 to provide U.S. recycling
> professionals with information
>                about best practices for computer recycling.
>                Dell has collected more than 700 tons of unwanted computer
> equipment this year during its
>                national tour. The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker
> and the NRC will publish a
>                computer recycling best practices guide and an outreach
> tool kit for municipal and university
>                recycling coordinators.
>                The companies also plan to hold a two-day training session
> for recycling coordinators, which
>                will include hands-on management of a computer recycling
> collection event at a major
>                university.
> Cynthia Dunn
> City of San Jose, Environmental Services Dept.
> Integrated Waste Management Division
> 777 N. First St., Ste. 300
> San Jose, CA 95112
> 408-277-3628 ph / 408-277-3669 fx
> cynthia.dunn@no.address

Ted Smith
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition/Computer TakeBack Campaign
760 N. First Street,San Jose, CA 95112
408-287-6707-phone; 408-287-6771-fax
Food for thought: How Gandhi Defined the Seven Deadly Sins
· Wealth without work; · Pleasure without conscience; · Knowledge without character;· Commerce without morality;
· Science without humanity;· Worship without sacrifice;· Politics without principle

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