According to the global “The World Counts” electronic waste counter, more than 16 million tons of electronic waste has been thrown out so far this year alone, and this number is growing at a rate of about 100,000 tons a day. It’s the equivalent of throwing out 1,000 laptops every single second!
This e-waste contains extremely toxic chemicals, including lead, arsenic, mercury and more, that greatly impact the health of our planet and population. That’s not to mention the effect of the increased energy production required to operate technology devices and produce new ones.
It’s time for technology companies to rally to become part of the solution, not the problem. Luckily, there are some simple ways the tech industry can make more sustainable choices that will have a true impact on a greener future. Here are five examples:
1. Use Less Material – Particularly Plastic.
Since the 1940s, plastic has been a ubiquitous part of our lives. In fact, plastic production continues to see overwhelming growth. It’s estimated that global production of plastics was nearly 350 million metric tons in 2017 and by 2050, plastic production is expected to have tripled, accounting for a fifth of global oil consumption.
Close attention to smart, practical design can develop devices that use less plastic, minimizing waste and pollution. Take computing endpoint devices as an example. By lowering the use of plastic included in the construction of the device, tech companies can lower their plastic production and output by as much as 50%.
2. Employ Recycled Plastic.
With our seas drowning in plastic – it’s estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year – we need to become more mindful of plastic recycling. Using recycled plastic, without adding additional colors or paints, can improve sustainability while also increasing environmental protection and waste reduction. Tech companies should always make the mindful choice to use recycled plastic whenever possible.
3. Improve Power Efficiency.
In the United States, 81% of our total energy comes from oil, coal and natural gas. This means we are depleting the planet’s finite stores of fossil fuels many times faster than they are formed. The tech industry can do their part to help by creating devices that consume less power, use a smaller physical footprint, and wherever possible employ convection cooling without moving parts. This will not only save on energy (and energy costs) but also lower ambient cooling requirements.
Consider the impact of greater power efficiency, for example, in healthcare environments which use Workstation on Wheels (WOW) carts. These powered carts use a local battery to power the electronic equipment they hold. Devices that use a “lighter weight” operating system will require less CPU utilization and local resources so that the WOW local battery can last significantly longer between re-charges. With fewer re-charges overall power usage declines. This not only improves efficiency but can even save lives as the WOW carts spend more time in operational deployment.
4. Enable Device Reuse.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling one million laptops will save the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 U.S. homes in a year. As good example of enabling device reuse is at the endpoint device where it’s now easier and more possible than ever to leverage aging devices by converting them into an efficient client that can connect to a virtual or cloud environment. That means that devices can significantly extend their useful operational life by employing a lightweight local operating system while accessing modern applications and Windows 10 desktops in the data center or cloud, rather than running Windows natively. Companies can delay the classic “hardware refresh” process for years which helps minimize new device production requirements to keep up with the latest technology. It also keeps older computers out of the landfill as they remain in use for much, much longer.
5. Reduce Production Footprints.
Every company in the tech industry can also thoughtfully refine its manufacturing and supply chain processes to drive sustainable practices. Concepts such as limiting component usage, leveraging more environmentally-friendly materials such as recycled paper and cardboard, and the application of technology advancements that optimize efficiency, resiliency and sustainability will help optimize resource use and move to achieve a “zero waste to landfill” goal.
By focusing on building a cleaner, greener world for our future generations, the tech industry can make a significant impact on waste reduction and sustainable use. At the same time, we can all make positive moves in corporate responsibility while still helping customers experience significant capital and operational savings. Going green is all in the sustainable choices we make. Let’s make them together.
Jed Ayres is the CEO of IGEL, provider of the next-gen edge OS for cloud workspaces which simplifies the reuse of aging PCs and laptops, converting them into powerful and easy to manage clients for virtual- and cloud-hosted applications. IGEL has actively held a decades-long commitment for applying sustainable technology approaches with a focus on making a positive corporate responsibility impact by helping to limit e-waste and minimize the depletion of the world’s natural resources.