Greens turn screw on HP over "hazardous products"

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Greens turn screw on HP over "hazardous products"

Greenpeace stepped up its high-profile campaign against the use of hazardous chemicals in the IT industry yesterday, slamming HP for apparently reneging on a commitment to phase out certain toxins from its products by the end of the year.

Members of the green group launched a two-pronged protest at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters, gaining access to a rooftop and painting a 3500-square metre message of "Hazardous Products" on the building, using non-toxic children’s finger paint.

And it targeted HP workers with the protest, organising a William Shatner-style robo-call to staff saying: "You at HP promised me a toxin-free computer by 2009. Now, my friends at Greenpeace tell me I have to wait until 2011. What's up with that?"

The call referred to Greenpeace's claim that HP pushed back its commitment to eliminate brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride plastics from its computers from this year to 2011.

At the HP Palo Alto facility, protestors dressed in hazard materials suits greeted employees as they showed up for work. Local police escorted the painters from the premises without arresting them.

A spokesman for the group said HP had fallen behind arch-rival Apple in the environmentally friendly stakes, because Apple had already stopped using the controversial materials.

HP sites in other countries have also seen protests. Activists returned " toxic laptops" to the company's Chinese headquarters and in Holland staff were confronted by Greenpeace activists with pictures of the pollution HP's toxic products cause in Asia and Africa.

Greenpeace's campaign against toxic components was launched in August 2006 and is built around the quarterly publication of a report ranking IT companies environmental and eWaste policies. It has been credited with driving significant improvements across the sector as companies compete to climb up the ranking. Most notably, Apple responded to a series of protests by developing a wide-reaching environmental policy and pledging to phase out numerous chemicals.

However, in recent reports Greenpeace has marked down a number of manufacturers that have delayed commitments to phase out potentially hazardous substances.

Rival manufacturers Dell and Lenovo could also be bracing themselves for similar protests, after Greenpeace said they too had delayed commitments to phase out hazardous chemicals.

HP was unamused by the Greenpeace protest and issued a statement reiterating its commitment to limiting its environmental impact. "The unconstructive antics at HP’s headquarters today did nothing to advance the goals that all who care about the environment share," it said. "HP will continue its efforts to develop new products and programs around the globe that help the company, its business partners and customers conserve energy, reduce materials use and reduce waste through responsible reuse and recycling."

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