How to Better Mitigate the Impact of E-Waste


Image courtesy of art_es_anna via flickr
RFID tags — the ubiquitous little devices used in passports and in product tracking — could help reduce the environmental impact of discarded computers by providing more accurate information about which parts can be reused. Eric Williams, a scientist at Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability and an expert on the life-cycle impacts of computers, is spearheading the effort; as he explained to ES&T;'s Kellyn Betts:

"The manufacturing phase takes up the lion's share of the resources used during the life cycle of computing equipment, so extending the lifetime of computers and other information technology equipment becomes an important environmental service. What people get rid of is a mix of usable machines, components, and junk. But in many recycling systems around the world (including Japan's), this is ignored and everything gets recycled for materials."Not only are RFID tags relatively cheap — often costing as little as 10-20¢ each — Williams reckons that computer manufacturers, eager to bolster their green credentials, might be willing to shoulder the extra cost associated with the devices' installation on their products. Several recycling companies interviewed for the story agreed that these devices would be an asset to their operations, facilitating the identification of components and increasing their turnover efficiency.

While many agree these devices could help prolong computers' life spans and improve recycling efforts, thus helping mitigate the impact of e-waste, some argue that their intended beneficiaries — individuals living in developing countries — would not be able to afford them. That's assuming manufacturers opt not to defray the costs for the devices, Williams counters; if these companies do intend to become model corporate citizens, they could do worse than support this technology.

Via ::Environmental Science & Technology: Reducing the global impact of e-waste (news website)

See also: ::Mexico Struggles to Deal with E-Waste, ::E-waste In India: A Growing Industry & Environmental Threat, ::E-waste Recycling is Serious Health Threat in China

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