The federal government just dropped EPEAT from its green electronics standards. The policy change—made without warning—was part of an updated executive order issued last month, which simply omitted EPEAT from the government’s previous language. When it comes to evaluating a device’s effect on the environment, EPEAT is the gold standard. The tool ranks products as either Gold, Silver, or Bronze—depending on adherence to a set of green criteria. No word if another standard will take its place.
Just how much e-waste is piling it up around the globe? A new infographic from CustomMade breaks down the good, the bad, and the deadly. According to CustomMade, “the global volume of refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors, and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings”—evidence that our existing “out of sight, out of mind” mentality really isn’t a viable long-term option when it comes to e-waste.
In yet another fascinating episode of “Yeah science, bitch!,” it turns out that salmon semen is good for more than just making more salmon. Aside from being a delicacy in Japan, fish sperm (also known as milt) could just be the future of rare earth element (REE) recycling. Milt might make it possible to recover REEs from discarded electronics. Ain’t life stranger than fiction?
What does it take to turn the lights on in poverty-stricken, rural communities? According to a group of researchers from IBM, the solution just might be e-waste. And they’re proving it by turning old laptop batteries into new, low-cost lights that can power homes and shops in the developing world. They are calling the project UrJar—and, sold cheaply, they hope UrJar will light up the world.
Christmas is the high-water mark of new stuff—and a lot of that new stuff is going to be electronic. As Wired’s Christina Bonnington pointed out yesterday, the mounting influx of shiny, thin devices is an environmental catastrophe just waiting to happen. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. If we’ve got any shot at meeting the e-waste challenge head-on, manufacturers are going to have to start giving a product’s end-of-life a lot more consideration.
I watch as workers at BMW’s Recycling and Dismantling Centre fish around for an alternator under the hood of what must have been a mid-sized sedan—except this car doesn’t have a hood anymore. In fact, this car doesn’t have much of anything anymore. Its skeletal remains picked clean of most detachable components, this car is one of about 6,000 BMWs recycled at the centre every year—just a tiny fraction of what BMW actually manufactures every single year. So why isn’t BMW recycling more?
Dell’s products have consistently impressed us with their modularity and repairability. Time and time again, Dell’s products have scored well on our teardown table. The Dell XPS 10 even tops the list of our most repairable tablets, earning a 9/10 for repairability. Now the recycling industry has independently verified iFixit’s findings. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) just announced Dell Inc. as the recipient of its 2014 Design for Recycling (DFR) Award.
Reuse just got one more advocate: Pope Francis. The newly instated Pope, who has long been an activist for the world’s poor, recently commended the efforts of the world’s “cartoneros”—informal waste pickers who sort through local dumps for items to salvage, reuse, or recycle. It’s dirty, hard, and sometimes dangerous work. Cartoneros are exposed to a slew of toxic materials and environmental pollutants. And we’re glad to see that someone is giving these men and women the respect they deserve.
Mark Sensenbach perches on a stool, back slightly hunched, eyes down, brows narrowed in concentration. His hands, toughened by mountains and work, maneuver the rubber sole of a climbing shoe against a sanding wheel. Mark started the shoe repair business, Recycle Resoles, almost two years ago. He’s one of only a handful of guys in California who resoles climbing shoes. Read about this repair master on iFixit.org.
We all grew up with the old mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But when it comes to electronics, recycling should be the final resort. Last year, 1.75 billion phones were sold to consumers. By the end of 2013, another 240 million tablets and 207 million PCs will be shipped globally. Many of the components in these gadgets—including rare earth elements—cannot be recovered during recycling. It’s time to add a fourth R to your sustainability action list: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, then Recycle.
Slim electronics might look great, but there’s a major problem with their design: battery accessibility. The growing trend in electronics is a seamless device that keeps the owner from replacing the battery. Instead, owners are forced to buy new products—when their old device is still running smoothly. If you own the product, the battery should be yours to change.
We’re buying, using, and discarding these resources at a rapid and unsustainable pace. The average consumer buys over 2,200 lbs of material per year; 80% of these materials end up in incinerators, landfills, or as wastewater. It’s not a matter of whether resource prices will go up — it’s a matter of when, and by how much. Unless we adapt. It’s time to invent a better economy.