The nation's largest computer maker will charge customers as little as $49 to dispose of computers safely — without dumping hazardous materials in landfills in the United States or in developing countries.
As part of an "Asset Recovery" program, Dell executives reiterated their promise to stop using prison labor to recycle computers, which contain dangerous, brain-damaging chemicals.
Until last week, Dell shipped used computers to UNICOR, a self-sustaining corporation that uses prison laborers, part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Washington-based UNICOR employs 1,100 convicts in recycling, paying them 20 cents to $1.26 per hour.
Kate Krebs, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition, said she was "thrilled" with Dell's program, which includes a Web site where customers can sign up and pay for recycling.
"We view this as a perfect step to help customers fulfill their environmental obligations in a simple, affordable manner," Krebs said Wednesday during Dell's telephone conference.
As part of the recycling, Dell will also strip hard drives of confidential data. The company will remove asset tags and other sensitive information in a cleansing process called "three times data override."
Customers who want added protection — such as hospitals that store patient data — may pay more for destruction of hard drives.
Executives at Round Rock, Texas-based Dell said their efforts had little to do with a report in late June by the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which criticized Dell's program as "primitive."
Pat Nathan, Dell's senior executive of environmental affairs, said the company changed its policies after focus groups with customers and contract negotiations with recyclers.
"It's a journey," Nathan said during the phone conference. "It's not something we're going to check off and put a tick in the box."