A Mike Saphiro of the Environmental Protection Agency says “we’re seeing an explosion in technology”. While this is occurring consumers will surely want to upgrade to the new systems, and as a consequence more and more discarded electronic devices will end up in the waste stream. According to the latest figures from the National Safety Council (an environmental watchdog group in Washington) in 1998, 20 million computers had become obsolete in the United States alone, and only 14 % of them have been recycled or donated.
1 It is expected that by 2004 the number will raise to 315 million. 2 The companies which would rather dump their old computers in landfill sites instead of recycling them risk damaging public health, industry experts have warned. 3 Computers are made out of hazardous toxic chemicals, which can cause serious environmental problems such as: acid rain, air pollution, the ozone damage and therefore puts human lives into danger, if they are not tread as they should be. Criterion B IT Background of the Issue
Over the past two decades the development of the microprocessor has influenced the rapid growth of the computer technology. Intel (world leader in the production and development of microprocessors) has been developing its processors since 1979, but 1993 was the turning point when it introduce the Pentium processor. 4 This was also the period, when computer components from different manufacturers started to develop. Ever since that: new, faster, and more powerful components have been constantly produced to replace the old ones. Nowadays the AMD processors are also very powerful and common.
The 4 parts which make up a basic computer are: the input devices, the output devices, the processor and the storage device. An input device is a device which gets information from the outside and digitizes it, while the output device gets the information that has been stored or processed inside the computer out in an appropriate format. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is located on the motherboard and performs the calculations inputted by the user or required. While the storage device as its name suggests is used to store the data which is inputted.
5 In the past few years computers have started to become much cheaper and as a consequence more people and organizations have bought them. The technological development has also develop with a tremendous speed which obliged the consumer to upgrade to newer products in order to be at the same pace with the rate of development. 114 million PCs were sold in 2000, and 133 million were sol last year. 7 And they will all need a final resting place in a few years. They will either end up recycled or they will become a hazard to our society.
A government-sponsored survey found out the babies which were born near landfill sites were slightly more likely to be born with health defects. The truth is that only 25% of computer waste is recycled. Jon Godfrey which works in the technology recycling domain explains: “People don’t associate the technology with hazardous waste but if you slash a computer up and stash it underground sooner or later the toxins will leech out” 8 The computers which end up at landfill sites cause many social and environmental problems. Air pollution is one of the most important ones.
PVS for example is a widely used plastic for the casings which causes during both production and incineration the release of dioxins, which are among the most toxic chemicals ever known, as a result this also causes acid rain over a couple of decades. Water pollution can also be caused by the toxic waste if not treated properly. If you leave an old monitor outside in a dump site, the fine particles of glass laced with lead will eventually degrade, and the water will become contaminated with lead. This lead-filled water will leach out of the landfill and contaminate the ground water.
Recycling does not bring any profit, it actually generates loss therefore no one wants to be made responsible for the situation. 9 Criterion D Solutions to Problems Arising from the Issue There are two viable solutions that could adopted in order to resolve or at least rest reduce the amount of computer waste produced each year. The first solution, which can be adapted in two different ways and has already been tried in different parts of the world, is to make either the producers or the consumers directly responsible with the recycling of the products which they have produced or used.
When asked for her position on computer waste, St. Denis representing Hewlett Packard says that a shared responsibility between the consumer and the manufacturer should be adopted. “Distributors get value out of our products, and even the consumer who uses the product at home or in the office gets some kind of value out of it. That doesn’t mean that we think we shouldn’t play a role or bear some of the cost”. 10 This solution could be easily achieved if all the companies would agree to it, however since everyone wants to maximize their profit it is going to be very hard to adopt this solution.
Probably most consumers would break the law of recycling their old computers if they had to pay for it, so in order to get rid of this problems, computer manufacturers should be obliged by law to give up a certain percent of their profit which would cover the sum needed in order to recycle the computer and the state should take care of it. However governments are afraid to adopt this law because the computer manufacturers could leave the country where that law is in power and instead of bringing a benefit, it will bring loss.
Another solution to this problem might be to stop using hazardous chemicals in the production of computer components, and make environmentally friendly computers. This has been adopted by certain monitor producers, and proved to be successful even though, the cost had been risen at the beginning in order to pay for the research that had been made in that field. This solution will only bring problems at the begging, because the process of making certain computer components will need to be changed. However this is probably the best solution for the future, because it will minimize the problems that can appear from the other solutions
Criterion E Selecting and Using Sources
1. Computer Specifications Slide Show
5 Computer Specifications Slide Show