Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Inc., issued a challenge Tuesday to the PC industry to adopt free recycling programs for customers andannounced that his company would offer to plant a tree for every PC sold — for an extra fee.

"Today, I challenge every PC maker to join us in providing free recycling for every customer in every country you do business, all the time — no exceptions," Dell said at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

"It's the right thing to do for our customers. It's the right thing to do for our earth."

The company has received high "green" marks from some environmental groups, including Greenpeace.

In 2004, Dell began offering free recycling of any brand of computer or printer if consumers bought a new Dell system.

The policy was revised in June so that consumers can recycle all Dell-branded printers, personal computers or other electronics gear for free, no purchase of new Dell gear required.

For those not buying a new system or who don't have Dell equipment, the Round Rock, Texas, company will take back used electronics for $10 US per box, as long as it weighs less than 23 kilograms.

Dell, the company's founder, made his remarks during a keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Trees for a fee

With a comedic assist from an actor appearing as the Austin Powers movie character Dr. Evil, Dell also announced a new "Plant a Tree for Me" program, in which customers can choose to have $2 of a laptop purchase or $6 of a desktop purchase go toward funds to plant trees around the world.

"We're the first global technology company to offer customers the opportunity to offset the emissions associated with the electricity used to power their computers," Dell said.

Dr. Evil gave his approval, and so did the audience, which clapped after the announcement.

"We can't destroy the planet, otherwise I have nothing to take over," the stage villain quipped.

The trees will be placed in areas where they won't be felled, such as state parks and wildlife areas, said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund, which is one of two environmental groups involved in the planting effort.

'Groundbreaking program'

"This groundbreaking program encourages participation by inviting customers in the effort to address climate change," he said. "No other company in the technology space is doing something as extraordinary as the Plant a Tree For Me program."

Dell also unveiled several products, such asa "Home Media Suite," which includes a new media centre PC based on Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows Vista operating system, a 27-inch flat-panel monitor, a printer and wireless router.

Dell said it will be the first PC that can play back and record premium cable content. A price was not disclosed.

A new desktop geared for gamers or PC power users was also introduced, featuring a new kind of liquid-cooling technology. The XPS 710 H2C starts at $5,499 and is available worldwide.

Later this year, Dell said it will also offer a new online data-migration service called "Dell DataSafe." It's an online service in which users would let Dell store their digital photos, movies, music or other data so Dell could pre-load the data onto a customer's newly purchased systems.