Specialty metals recycler Umicore uses grams per tonne of gold to illustrate the potential for urban mining of e-waste.
|Ore||PC Circuit Boards||Cell Phones|
|~5 g/t Au||200-250 g/t Au||300-350 g/t Au|
"Were America's Millions of Analog TVs Recycled?" That's the question we began asking five years ago as the United States converted from analog to digital television (DTV), obsoleting the traditional CRT-based sets. The answer now appears to be "no" due to consumer behavior and a declining market for CRT by-products.
How much gear is attached to the edges of our global ICT infrastructure? Our estimate has now reached 17 billion items, driven by mobile and broadcast devices. The World Bank tells us that the western hemisphere now has more mobile phones than people. This is an average number; 30% of Latin America's population lack access to mobile services.
Government entities have an important role to play in encouraging sustainable ICT across all industries. Effective leadership requires internal implementation, as well. The tag at the top of this post - government - helps you easily locate posts containing opportunities for and applications of Green ICT in government operations. (Green ICT in public education is found through the education tag.)
The New York Times reported in March 2013 that the U.S. Federal Government is trying, but not always succeeding, to make sure its e-waster is properly recycled. "The Obama administration, more than any of its predecessors, has strengthened oversight of electronic waste. In 2012, the General Services Administration enacted rules discouraging all agencies and federal contractors from disposing of it in landfills. The federal government, which is among the world’s largest producer of electronic waste, disposes more than 10,000 computers a week on average. Federal agencies are failing to sufficiently track their electronic waste, and large amounts of it are still being disposed of through public or online auctions, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. In these auctions, the waste is often sold to a first layer of contractors who promise to handle it appropriately, only to have the most toxic portion subsequently sold to subcontractors who move it around as they wish."
In an ironic turn of events, the e-waste being reprocessed in China is coming home to us through imports. This includes lead1 in our food.
There is a rich global mix of advanced concepts and technologies emerging from research labs that may improve the future sustainability of ICT equipment and infrastructures. We'll regularly update this post with technologies to watch. (You can see all the technologies which hold the promise of greener ICT in the future by clicking the 'FutureTech' tag, above.) Our latest are two from IBM: the possibility of a liquid transistor and the the demonstration of a very high speed optical communications link.
Updates from Africa and the Middle East. Click here for regional Green ICT updates from around the globe. Click on 'Africa-ME' tag above for all news about the region.
Powering Telecoms: West Africa Market Analysis presents this view of the Green Telecom opportunities in the Ghana/Nigeria region. "…a subscription base of 24.9 and 107 million respectively…29,835 sites providing mobile network coverage to around 80% of current population in these two countries. Nigeria has a whopping 24,252 telecom tower sites in total while Ghana has a network base of 5,583 sites…Out of the total 24,252 telecom sites in Nigeria, around 52% of the sites are off-grid…against only 11% of in Ghana. The remaining sites…have grid power supply of variable quality and reliability. Due to Nigeria’s poor grid power supply, over 81% of its on-grid sites suffer power outages for up to 6 hours a day. Only 2% of off-grid sites are deployed with green power…~ 55% of off-grid sites) still rely heavily on diesel generator backup power, running 24x7. The remaining off-grid sites (43%) are deployed with battery hybrid solutions. Most of the on-grid sites have diesel generator as backup power source.
Updates from Europe. Click on "Europe" tag above for all news about the region. Click here for regional Green ICT updates from around the globe.
Updates from Asia-Pacific. Click here for regional Green ICT updates from around the globe. Click on 'Asia-Pac' tag above for all news about the region. (Information about the ICT implications of Japan's earthquake and tsunami have been moved to its own post.)
Fast Company's list of 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 is topped by Chinese activist Ma Jun, Director of the nonprofit Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE). Ma's focus on pollution began in the 1990s and became critical to Green ICT a few years ago. "In 2009, his team began to notice several cases of health problems due to heavy-metal pollution being reported in local newspapers. 'To our surprise, the source wasn't mostly mines or government-operated smelters,' he says, 'but factories manufacturing global IT equipment'…By April 2010, Ma had discovered 29 major tech brands using factories with hazardous operations." Ma and IPE gained global recognition in 2011 by challenging the Apple, allegedly the largest and least responsive of the tech giants implicated in Chinese pollution. Learn more from our 2011-12 coverage of Ma, IPE, and Apple.
Apple attracted attention in 2012 because its iPad was so tightly assembled that it was not easily recycled. Now, it appears that Microsoft's Windows Surface tablet may be even less easily recycled.