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?
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.
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.
Computers arrive at The Exploration Station because they’ve outlived their usefulness. Some unwanted, used computers are donated to the program by local families and businesses. Others come to the facility as e-waste. Behind the building, volunteers welcome people with drop-offs and sort through the cast-off electronics. Over the last 14 years, this group of dedicated volunteers has refurbished the cast-offs and given out almost 4,000 computers to their community.
In a sunny Bay Area classroom, twenty sixth graders are working at computers. They are making websites—”MySpace” pages for figures from American History. One student is researching Frederick Douglass’s five greatest accomplishments. Another is showing a classmate how to search for pictures of Susan B. Anthony. You might expect that such an up-to-date computer lab would cost the school a fortune, but this lab cost absolutely nothing.
Federal agencies can no longer buy Apple products for their offices. According to a recent announcement, Apple will be pulling all of their products from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), the leading green consumer electronics standard. EPEAT is designed to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of electronics manufacturing by requiring that products meet eight environmental “performance categories.”