Indian outsourcing giant and computer maker Wipro has introduced new PCs that comply with the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.
The move by Wipro to offer RoHS compliant products follows a 2005 demonstration by Greenpeace International activists who dumped old PCs outside Wipro’s Bangalore headquarters.
Wipro is the first Indian computer maker to offer products that are RoHS compliant, said Ramapati Kumar, team leader for toxics at Greenpeace's Bangalore office.
The company already has an e-waste disposal programme for its customers, launched in September 2006.
The RoHS directive, adopted by the EU in 2003, came into effect in July last year. It restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment.
How much impact the Wipro initiative will have on India's e-waste problem remains to be seen. The government estimates that around 146,000 tons of e-waste are produced annually in the country.
But Greenpeace's Kumar said the figure was actually twice as high because the government estimate covered only e-waste generated in big cities.
Another 150,000 tons of used PCs, printers and other IT devices enter India illegally each year, according to Kumar. Some of the equipment was intended as donations to local charities but was sold before reaching Indians too poor to afford a PC, he said.
Indian government regulations on handling e-waste are notoriously lax and do not measure up to the RoHS directive, he added.
Ashutosh Vaidya, vice president of Wipro's personal computing division, said Wipro's entire PC line would be RoHS compliant by the end of this year. The division, which targets corporate users, sold about 170,000 PCs last year, and expects sales of 250,000 units in the company's fiscal year ending March next year, Vaidya said.
"It is a good start, but we still have a long way to go," Kumar said. The Indian government is still framing rules for proper handling of e-waste.
Ahead of those rules, Wipro has promised by 2009 to phase out the use of some hazardous chemicals still used in its products, including a brominated flame retardant and polyvinyl chloride . These chemicals are not covered under the RoHS directive.