Consumers are willing to pay up to an extra £108 ($197) for a PC containing fewer chemicals, a survey has found.
Old technology often ends up in junk yards in China
People also feel manufacturers should take responsibility for the disposal of old machines, the research shows.
So-called e-waste is a growing global problem, with 30 million PCs being dumped each year in the US alone.
The study by Ipsos-Mori for Greenpeace coincides with an announcement by PC maker Dell to phase out a number of toxic chemicals in its products.
The nine-nation research found that UK computer users were willing to pay an extra £64 ($117), while people in China were prepared for spend up to £108 ($197) for a more environmentally sound PC.
A report published by the UN University in 2004 said making the average PC required 10 times the weight of the machine in chemicals and fossil fuels.
1: Lead in cathode ray tube and solder
2: Arsenic in older cathode ray tubes
3: Selenium in circuit boards as power supply rectifier
4: Polybrominated flame retardants in plastic casings, cables and circuit boards
5: Antimony trioxide as flame retardant
6: Cadmium in circuit boards and semiconductors
7: Chromium in steel as corrosion protection
8: Cobalt in steel for structure and magnetivity
9: Mercury in switches and housing
The study also found that the short life of computer equipment was leading to a mountain of toxic waste, mainly in India and China.
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a massive global problem. Thirty million computers are thrown out every year in the US alone.
About 70% of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, in landfill sites come from e-waste.
Greenpeace International spokeswoman Zeina al-Hajj said: "Consumers not only want greener PCs but they are willing to pay extra for them.
"Dell's decision to remove these harmful chemicals reflects a move within the electronics industry in the right direction to become cleaner."
The environmental group has long campaigned for the sector to move to cleaner production methods.
Dell says it will eliminate the use of all brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in its products by 2009.
A number of other firms, including Hewlett Packard, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, have also made commitments to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals in the near future.
What are your views on the issues covered in this story? Send us your comments.
I don't mind paying a little (or in some cases a lot) extra for a PC that is more nature friendly. It helps deal with the global pollution problem and I'm willing to pay to solve a problem that could become extremely dangerous.
Winter's Shadow, Camas, USA
I can't believe it has taken this long for the majority of IT manufacturers to catch on to the green message. How have they got away with it for so long when other areas are so strongly scrutinised in these issues? I own a Brother printer which is made from recycled material when it comes to the end of its life they will collect it and recycle it for me at no cost to myself!!
I agree "e-waste" is a problem, but why not mention discarded cars and building materials in the same article? I'm more concerned about the mountains of packaging materials and unwanted junk mail I go through every day.
Alex Cybriwsky, San Diego, CA
Would be more interesting to find out how much electricity prices have gone up since everyone started buying home computers, now there are at least one if not 2 computers per household.
I recycle bottles, cans, bags, paper and food waste - but if some computer equipment has to go it can only go to the tip. Either they need to start making things such as the casings from better biodegradable or recyclable materials, or the government must provide a public service for recycling of the components through re-use.
I don't believe it for a second. Average couple walk into a PC shop and see one computer they like for £500, and another they like for £600, performance wise the difference is negligible, but one is 'greener'. They won't waste £100 on it However, I do believe the toxins in computers should be dealt with properly, and if possible not used at all.
It's easy to pick on PCs as it's something most of us have. And of course, it's good to be greener. But PCs usually last for a few years and most people only have one of them. Wouldn't it be better to focus on something we use every day? I'd be more interested to know how much energy goes into making CDs, or how many trees go into the average novel.
Flash Wilson, London, UK
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