In an abrupt departure from past policy, high-tech giant Hewlett-Packard has announced that it will support California legislation requiring computer manufacturers to pay for safe disposal of electronic waste. In October, HP used its considerable clout as the world’s largest maker of personal computers to persuade Gov. Gray Davis (D) to veto an e-waste measure. But the company changed its tune last week, following the publication of a three-part series by the San Jose Mercury News documenting labor and environmental woes in China stemming from the U.S. computer industry. HP is suggesting that all U.S. computer makers shoulder a percentage of the cost of recycling their products based on relative market shares in California. So far, other electronics companies have remained mute about HP’s about-face. If the state adopts new computer legislation, it could pave the way for federal regulations to keep hazardous e-waste out of landfills and prevent it from being sent overseas.

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