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Thread: The Real Cost Of Computers

  1. #1
    sArA's Avatar Ex-Moderatererer
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Thought this was interesting,12...1164497,00.html

    PCs: the latest waste mountain

    Ian Sample, science correspondent
    The Guardian, Monday March 8, 2004

    First it was the fridge mountain, then it was the tyre mountain. Now discarded
    computers have got environmentalists worried.

    According to a study released today our relentless appetite for buying new
    computers - and the ease with which we throw out old ones - is having a major
    impact on the environment. Instead of dumping our old computers after a few
    years, we should be using them for longer, or selling them on secondhand to
    reduce demand for new ones, the authors say.

    Scientists at the UN university in Tokyo estimate that to make a new computer
    requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals.

    The manufacture of one computer consumes 240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of
    chemicals and 1,500kg of water.

    Car manufacturing is far less energy intensive, says the study, with each
    vehicle requiring at most twice its weight in fossil fuels.

    Computers have found their way into nearly every home and office, yet sales
    keep soaring. In 2002, the number of personal computers in the world topped
    1bn and sales continue to rise at around 130m a year.

    "It's hard to imagine life without one of these indispensable 21st century
    tools, but it is exactly because they have become so ubiquitous that we must
    be aware of the negative impacts of the PC boom," said Eric Williams, an
    expert in the environmental impact of technology and co-author of the study.

    The study criticises governments for concentrating on recycling instead of
    introducing measures to reduce the numbers of new computers people buy, or
    encouraging them to buy secondhand machines.

    "It's more effective to try and reduce and reuse things first and then worry
    about recycling," said Dr Williams.

    The study calls for governments to introduce tax breaks for people buying used
    computers instead of new ones. "A lot of computer manufacturers sell used
    computers with warranties, but many people are simply not aware of it," he

    European legislation demands that when computers are finally taken to the tip,
    70% of the materials used to make them is recycled.

    Copper, gold and silver can all be recovered from discarded computers. But
    tonnes of old desktop PCs are still shipped to developing countries for
    recycling, where the processes used - such as baths of acid to strip metals
    from circuit boards - can be environmentally damaging.

    Without incentives to make computers last longer, their environmental impact
    will continue to grow.

    "People normally keep fridges for 15 years, but you see computers getting
    thrown out after just three years, so five times as many computers are being
    dumped. We're certainly looking at a worsening problem," said Dr Williams.

    The study also calls on computer manufacturers to help extend the useful
    lifetime of their machines by making them easier to upgrade, so instead of
    having to completely replace them, people can simply buy new parts.

    But, as Andrew Blazer, who studies environmental impact at Imperial College,
    London, points out, companies will only change their practices if there is
    something in it for them.

    "Unless there's a benefit to business, it won't be done. It's all very well
    for the UN to bleat, but business will only change if there's an incentive,"
    he said.

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    kAb's Avatar Poster
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    I do know that they devote warehouses to old computers, and that there are 'computer pick ups' once a year where I live, where you can leave a dead/old computer at the side of the road, and they'll take it to a place thats safe.

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    shn's Avatar 3μ|\|(7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    It's the big corporations that sell computers that for the most part are not upgradeable.

    That leaves most typical consumers with no choice but to buy another pc to suit thier needs which the other one obviously could not.

    With all the money they make and all the tax write off's they get, one would think they should be held fully responsible.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Oh, please...
    I have a tendency to keep tech-stuff for any variety of possible future uses.

    This one will probably end up being my "garage" PC eventually.


    You have a mighty good point as re: big companies who just pitch their stuff; this stuff costs enough that every bit of usable life should be wrung out of it.
    Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that. -George Carlin


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