Minimize e-waste with design and science

Written by Paper. Posted in Communication, Technology

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Published on November 12, 2014 with No Comments

By now it’s a well-worn story, the DVD player is on the fritz and a decision must be made – replace or repair. At a glance, repair seems to be the more expensive option. But now, environmental advocates are urging us to think of the cost beyond money. Think of the lead, the flame retardants and the overwhelming amount of toxic chemicals that are headed to the dump every time an obsolete or broken piece of technology is dicarded. The 25 metric tones of electronic waste annually is only the beginning of the end of any given technology’s life. Not to mention the fact that some of it is shipped overseas where desperately poor people come in direct contact with it. Whether it’s a case of the DVD player, an old charger not fitting new equipment, bulky TVs replaced by more stylish and advanced versions, or the early adopter just upgrading every few months, such e-wasting is overwhelming. It’s all covered in a new video by Annie Leonard, “The Story of Electronics.”
But all isn’t lost. All of us can become advocates for greener technology designs. A modular design where broken parts can be swapped out quickly can go a long way toward extending the life of a product and reducing e-waste. When a product is replaced, manufacturers could take back the old and recycle it. Technology designers could incorporate new scientific breakthroughs with “Green” materials such as lead-free soldering and bromide-free flame retardants. Who would have guessed that the electronics industry is a huge consumer of brominated flame retardants? And it seems, even before the new video, companies were taking notes. Apple, Sony Ericsson and Seagate are among those focusing on safer materials. In Europe there are laws addressing this, but if scientists and designers take charge, we might not need those laws here.

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