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A Brief History & Update on Life Cycle Environmental Implications of Electronics

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  1. A Brief History & Update on Life Cycle Environmental Implications of Electronics

  2. An Interesting Problem • ICT products and the systems that use them are a “double-edged sword” • On one hand, they lead to environmental problems and concerns • However using them can allow us to significantly improve our use of resources, energy, etc. • Important to find the balance

  3. Sales of Computers (1980-2003) Over 100 million PCs are sold per year now. In 2003, the one-billionth PC was shipped since 1980.

  4. Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) • A concept and methodology to evaluate the environmental effects of a product or activity holistically, by analyzing the whole life cycle of a particular product, process, or activity (U.S. EPA, 1993). • From raw material acquisition through production, use and disposal • What are example impacts at each stage?

  5. End Of Life (EOL) / Disposal Concerns For Electronics • Toxic substances such as lead could leach into soil and contaminate groundwater. • Technological advances could accelerate the turnover of TVs and computers. • Rapid advances could lead to storage, donation, repair, or disposal of working and non-working equipment.

  6. Ristriction of Hazzardous Substances (RoHS)/Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directives • RoHS: bans or restricts certain substances of concern (e.g. Lead) • WEEE: puts in place systems to require take back and handling of EOL electrical and electronic products (not just PCs!) • Passed in last few years at EU level • But each EU country responsible for local definition, legislation, enforcement • Most EU countries have not fully implemented the required legislation yet

  7. TVs and Computer Monitors • Electronics (used to) share critical components • Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) • CRT screen contains lead • Protects the user from radiation • Lead weighs from four to eight pounds • Newer LCD screens have less problems but have other concerns (e.g. mercury in bulbs?)

  8. Educating the Public About Recycling (Florida, US) • Residents don’t consider the CRT issue urgent and 70% don’t want additional information. • Younger residents (18-34) were the most interested in recycling information. • Residents rated county/city recycling programs as preferred education method for recycling info. • TV and Radio were stated as the best media for receiving information.

  9. CMU Dell Event Context • A few hundred people, 50 tons collected • About half from a few large groups (school districts, etc.) • Thus a few hundred individuals brought about 25 tons.

  10. The Evolving Electronics Infrastructure • The Evolution • Demanufacturers/Entrepreneurs • Corporate Recovery Programs • Government Regulatory Discussions • Local County Government Pilot Programs • Government Bans or Regulations • Media Coverage • Producer Responsibility

  11. Manufacturer Actions • Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM have long been industry leaders • Were amongst first companies to develop in-house electronics recycling facilities • Were first to offer publicly available takeback and recycling programs (for a fee) • Unclear what volume of recycled product and revenue streams look like • Unclear whether these programs are profitable

  12. Some Concerns • Computer recycling IS NOT FREE • There are many costs associated with logistics, handling, demanufacturing • Actual cost on order of $10-$20 per unit • Free events may send wrong signals to people about costs of recycling • Similar to how artificially low gas prices in US lead to purchase of large vehicles and 15,000 miles driven per car per year?

  13. Beyond End-of-Life Issues • In last 5 years, focus of much research has moved from EOL to sustainability of information and communications technology (ICT) systems • Expectation is that hardware issues will eventually be solved - but what will happen as ICT systems become more pervasive in the world?

  14. What is sustainability? • Sustainability is a concept related to managing growth • “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

  15. Energy Flow Diagram

  16. 36.3 GJ 32.7 GJ Electricity Grid 10% Customer Distribution/ Transmission Power Supply 40% 19.6 GJ System Losses We lose, on average, 80% of the energy we extract when using it for electronic products

  17. Power Naps • Campus initiative to set power management on computers/monitors (10-20,000 computers!) • Electricity use of computer equipment: • Desktop Computer: 110 W • CRT Monitor: 80 W • LCD Monitor: 24 W • Unlike PCs, monitors can be turned off quickly, easily, painlessly, and temporarily • Turning off monitors saves 72% of desktop energy • Could also save cooling energy use in summer

  18. Will E-commerce Improve or Degrade the Environment? • Pro - • reduce private and commercial travel - avoid shopping trips, • remove transaction inefficiencies, • reduce logistic and manufacturing inefficiencies, • reduce waste of inventory and remainders, • digital manufacturing service provision

  19. Will E-commerce Improve or Degrade the Environment? • Con - • overhead of Internet infrastructure - electricity use increase, computers, switches, etc. • shift to high impact travel modes, • reduce scale economies - smaller shipment sizes, • stimulate growth, • encourage dispersion

  20. Wired or wireless Wireless ‘equipment’: 5-10x less electricity than wired • While not purely generalizable, an indicator of the potential energy efficiency of wireless

  21. Final Thoughts • ‘Efficiency’ of wireless (versus wired) communications is irrelevant! • For foreseeable future, we will have need for wired networks (if nothing else, to make long-range mobile calls!) • This dependency will limit our ability to realize energy savings from wireless • i.e., until we ‘pull the plug’, we are using more total energy to have both to use