Environmental campaigners at Greenpeace International plan to protest against the use of toxic chemicals in electronics products at the Computex IT show in Taipei next week.

"Greenpeace has been working on the pollution caused by toxic chemicals for quite some time, and one of the most outstanding sources of toxic pollution is from the IT industry," the group said Thursday, dubbing such pollution "ewaste".

The environmental group plans to stage events at the World Trade Centre in Taipei starting from June 6, to place pressure upon makers of IT products to stop using toxic chemicals in their products, and to return gadgets for recycling when users are finished with them.

Green components essential

It wouldn't be the first time Greenpeace has protested at Computex or other IT-related trade shows. The group was at Computex last year, and won media attention for its efforts. It's unlikely the activities will disrupt the show, but its message is being heard in more and more circles, particularly in Europe.

Many producers of technology items ranging from semiconductors to circuit boards, which contain a cocktail of chemicals during manufacturing, are working to develop more nature-friendly ways to operate in response to a regimen of European environmental regulations that take effect on July 1 of this year.

The RoHS regulations (Restriction of the use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations) ban new electronic or electrical equipment that exceed set levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and other materials.

Loutish landfills

In a report titled "Hi Tech: Highly Toxic," Greenpeace argues that a steep rise in the use of electronics devices globally has caused an explosion in electronic waste in landfills, much of it toxic and difficult to recycle safely.

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of old computers and mobile phones are dumped in landfills or burned in smelters. Thousands more are exported, often illegally, from the Europe, US, Japan and other industrialised countries, to Asia. There, workers at scrap yards, some of whom are children, are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals and poisons," it says.

Others have taken steps to combat the rising mountain of junkyard waste from the IT industry.

Taiwan, the host of Computex, has stepped up its efforts to recycle electronics products in recent years, including government buybacks of old computers and heavy fines for improperly disposing of mobile phones or optical disks, including CDs and DVDs.