Greenpeace activists showed their disdain for a major computer company in a demonstration that is characteristic of the non-profit organization. In a direct action this morning, several Greenpeace activists scaled the campus of Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, Calif. and painted "Hazardous Products" in non-toxic children's finger paint on the roof.
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The San Francisco-based environmental organization criticized HP for delaying commitments to remove toxic chemicals -- such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) -- from its line of computer products. The company postponed removal of these chemicals, which are considered toxic, from the end of this year until 2011.

"HP continues to put hazardous products on the market despite promises made years ago to phase out these toxic compounds," said Casey Harrell, international toxics campaigner for Greenpeace, in a prepared statement. The non-profit points to Apple as a leader in the industry for phasing out these chemicals.

On HP's website, the company published this statement regarding use of materials:
"We still use certain BFRs in printed-circuit boards because suitable alternatives are not yet available. As technologically feasible alternatives become readily available that will not compromise product performance or quality and will not adversely impact health or the environment, we will complete the phase out of BFR and PVC in newly introduced personal computing products in 2011." 

HP did not return immediate requests for comment.

Previously reported on GreenBiz.com, Greenpeace criticized several companies for not removing toxics like PVC and BFRs from their products quickly enough in their most recent version of the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics.

It's the issue of toxics that has had the biggest impact on scores this time around, as three companies -- Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo -- all lost a point due to their failure to address toxics issues.

Each of those three companies placed toward the bottom of the most recent rankings: Dell with 3.9 points, HP with 3.5, and Lenovo in third-from-last place with 2.5 points.

In an email message, Lenovo responded to the criticism: "We continually review our environmental programs and we make the necessary revisions to programs and policies based on the most currently available information including environmental, customer and business requirements," said Kristy Fair, media relations with that company. "We believe more time is needed to work with our suppliers to ensure the availability of environmental preferable substitutes for materials of concern."

photo courtesy Kim White, Greenpeace