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CES 2005 eBay is to tackle "e-waste": obsolete PCs that poison the environment when dumped in landfills.

At CES yesterday the online auction giant announced the Rethink Initiative, to promote re-use and recycling. The centrepiece is a website that helps consumers and businesses learn about product disposal options, such as recycling and refurbishing.

Working computers can be sold or donated through the Rethink Initiative site. Tools to aid selling on eBay include a safe data destruction utility, listing helpers that automatically identify system components, and information on how to purchase protective shipping kits. The Rethink Initiative also provides access to a directory of third-party sellers who can pick up one or more PCs and sell them on behalf of the owners.

With Intel as its main ally, eBay's Rethink Initiative co-ordinates efforts by companies such as Apple, Gateway, HP, IBM and Ingram Micro, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, UPS and the US Postal Service. Plans for similar European initiatives have yet to be announced.

In the US alone some 133,000 PCs per day are retired and replaced by their original owners, Gartner, the IT analyst firm, estimates, Only about 10 per cent of unwanted PCs in the US are recycled, the Grass Roots Recycling Network says.

The problem is expected to become worse: In the next three years, individuals and organisations worldwide will replace more than 400 million computers. The average mobile phone in the US is replaced after just 18 months. More than 75 per cent of all computers ever sold remain stockpiled in closets, garages, office storage rooms and warehouses. ®

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