Dell Scraps Recycling Firm

Hewlett Packard employee Renee Johnson disassembles a computer at the company's recycling facility in Roseville, Calif., in a Monday, May 14, 2001 file photo. For a small fee, the company takes computers from individuals or companies and recycles them for parts or rebuilds them for future use. AP

Dell Computer Corp. said Thursday it will stop using a contractor that relies on prison labor to dismantle and recycle computers.

Dell said it has hired two new contractors to perform the work, Resource Concepts Inc. and Image Microsystems Inc.

The computer giant has been under pressure since last week to sever ties with UNICOR, a government-run corporation that uses federal inmates for a variety of money-making ventures.

Last week, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental group in California, accused Dell of running a "primitive" recycling system that exposed inmates to dangerous chemicals as they took apart computers and plucked out the reusable parts.

Dell spokesman Bryant Hilton said the switch in vendors was not related to the California group's report.

Dell said RCI and Image Microsystems had agreed to certain conditions for doing the recycling work, including compliance within one year with internationally recognized workplace-safety guidelines.

Calls to UNICOR officials in Washington were not immediately returned.

Environmental officials say the most troublesome ingredient in old computers is lead from cathode ray tubes and solder used on the motherboard.

  • John Esterbrook

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