Photo via Autodesk
The bulk of a computer is recyclable. Each of our desktops or laptops is made of components that can be easily turned into a new product at end of life -- or rather, it should be easy to turn them into something new. While the materials themselves are highly recyclable, it's tough work to separate them on the recycling line, which is one of the reasons recycling electronics is so expensive. Manufacturers are very slowly starting to take this in mind in their design phase, and third-party certifiers like EPEAT are giving them extra points for designing for easy recycling. But it seems students from Stanford University and Finland's Aalto University have already cut to the chase. They've designed a laptop that can be pulled apart in a flash and without any need for special tools, or any tools at all for that matter.
The students used 3D design tools from Autodesk to come up with the Bloom laptop that can be disassembled in a snap. The fact that it is so easy to separate it into its recyclable parts could be a huge game changer for manufacturers and recyclers, should the design ever be utilized by manufacturers that is. It could even be a boon for consumers who want to quickly replace or upgrade particular parts of their device, extending its useful life for possibly years beyond average.
We have a terrible recycling rate for electronics in the US, with numbers staying low even as consumption rates of gadgets goes up. And of those items that actually get recycled, too many are ending up in hazardous e-waste dumps where it is cheaper to recycle them. If a laptop can be broken down in just 30 seconds without any tools, the odds of recyclers keeping electronics in the US for processing would likely go way up as costs of recycling dip.
Accroding to Autodesk, "When separated into different material types -- such as plastics, metals and circuitry -- the Bloom laptop's modular design makes it easy for consumers to decrease the amount of electronic waste added to landfills. For example, 1.9 to 2.2 million tons of electronics became obsolete in 2005, with only 345,000 to 379,000 tons being recycled. The Bloom can be disassembled in just two minutes, without tools and in just 10 steps. By comparison, a commercially available laptop takes about 45 minutes to disassemble, requires three separate tools and involves as many as 120 steps."
This kind of design is what DIYers have been screaming for -- as iFixit's repair manifesto states, if you can't open it, you don't own it. Electronics need to be easily upgradeable, repairable, and recyclable if we're to even vaguely minimize their environmental impact. We absolutely love designs like what these students have created, and we're hoping one or many manufacturers catch up to their ideas soon.
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