Greenpeace activists this morning dumped 500Kg of used PCs outside the Bangalore headquarters of Wipro, one of India's biggest outsourcing companies.

The activists said they collected the scrapped Wipro-branded computers from recycling yards in Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai. In addition to its outsourcing business, Wipro assembles and sells PCs for the domestic market.

"We want Wipro to stop using hazardous chemicals in the manufacture of their products, and take the responsibility to take back end-of-life products from its customers," said Ramapati Kumar, a toxics campaigner at the Bangalore office of Greenpeace. Currently, most electronic waste ends up in unauthorized disposal yards where it's disposed of manually in hazardous conditions, Kumar said.

Corporate leadership demand

Greenpeace decided to target Wipro because it considers it an "iconic" company in India. If it were to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, Wipro's actions could start a trend for the rest of the PC industry in India and abroad, Kumar said.

Wipro responded to say it was reviewing its practices following the protest. The company does not currently have a take-back policy for the computers it sells, except when it is upgrading computers for customers, a Wipro spokeswoman said.

PCs discarded by the company's outsourcing business are currently stockpiled in a Wipro warehouse, as Wipro is awaiting guidelines from the local State Pollution Board about how to dispose of them, she said.

Regarding the use of toxic chemicals in its PCs, this is a larger issue requiring the entire chain of manufacturers and suppliers to work together on the problem, Wipro said. The company does not manufacture PC parts but merely assembles them at its facility, the spokeswoman said.

India - the world’s waste disposal

India has become a dumping ground for both its own electronic waste and waste shipped there by other countries for disposal, environmentalists say. About 40 per cent of the electronic waste processed in the country is shipped from abroad, to take advantage of low labour costs and lax environmental regulations in the country, Kumar said.

Waste and hazardous chemicals at India's recycling facilities are commonly handled with little regard for the health and safety of workers or the surrounding communities, and with no regard for the environment, according to a Greenpeace report published in the Netherlands last month.