The world's two largest personal-computer manufacturers have gotten a little greener.
Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. announced free, temporary programs Tuesday to encourage U.S. consumers to recycle toxin-filled computers and electronics.
Beginning next week, Dell customers in the United States who buy a new Dimension desktop or Inspiron notebook computer can recycle their old computers free. The offer expands on a free recycling program the company has had for printers since March 2003.
Rival Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, has teamed with retailer Office Depot to offer free recycling for computers, digital cameras, fax machines, cell phones and other electronics.
Consumers can drop off electronics at any Office Depot store between Sunday and Labor Day. The service is limited to one computer system or other electronic device per customer per day.
Environmental groups, which have long blasted the computer industry for lax recycling efforts, lauded the news. Only about 11 percent of electronics are recycled.
"Finally, consumers and small businesses have some options that don't charge you to do the right thing," said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Campaign for the Environment.
The group is one of three that teamed up for the Computer TakeBack Campaign, which monitors the recycling efforts of the world's computer makers.
In May, the campaign published a report that ranked the recycling programs of Dell and HP above many foreign competitors. A year earlier, Dell fared poorly in the report, mainly for its use of prison workers who earned 20 cents to $1.26 per hour to recycle hardware.
Round Rock, Texas-based Dell now uses two domestic recycling companies and says none of the parts will end up in overseas landfills. Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP has recycling centers in Roseville, Calif., and near Nashville, Tenn.
Michael Rosenstein, Dell's director of consumer e-business, said the new program was in reaction to demands from consumers and environmental groups. He would not say how long Dell's limited offer would last.
The Dell program lets consumers get free recycling as part of the checkout process on its Web site. Buyers will get two prepaid shipping labels — one for the computer, one for the monitor — and instructions to put old equipment of any make or model in the boxes that contained the new equipment. DHL will pick up the boxes for free.
Those not buying new Dell computers can buy home pickup recycling for $5 per unit; the price had been $15.
HP also has a mail-based computer recycling plan that costs consumers $35. Similarly, IBM Corp. accepts mailed-in computers, printers and monitors, by any manufacturer, for a $30 fee, with shipping included.
According to the EPA, computers and other electronic devices can contain lead, mercury and chromium. TVs and monitors contain four pounds of lead, on average, the agency says. Computers also contain valuable re-useable materials like steel, glass and plastic.
While computers make up only about 1 to 2 percent of the nation's waste, the EPA says, the industry's share is growing.