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All those phones, computers and tablets we rely on are dependent on mined resources. Extracting and processing those resources accounts for nearly half of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is why the European Commission's Circular Economy Action Plan calls for "initiatives for the entire life cycle of products, from design and manufacturing to consumption, repair, reuse, recycling, and bringing resources back into the economy."
By Tim Schauenberg
Technician Christopher Olk concentrates hard as he removes the broken drive from a DVD player and pushes it back in again.
"If it's the mechanics or the electronics, I can fix it," explains the 26-year-old, who is working on his Ph.D. in battery technology at Aachen University. "If the chip or the cooling system is affected then I can't do anything, because I'm missing the equipment and spare parts."
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The workplace of the inventor's technique. The hands of the worker are bound by a chain as a symbol of the prohibition on repair. Andrey Bukreev / iStock / Getty Images Plus
When our smartphones, televisions or other gadgets stop working, it seems like the only choice we have is to get rid of it. This never-ending stream of electronic waste has created mountains of toxic trash that's hazardous to people and the planet.
That's why consumers and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe are fighting back under the burgeoning "Right to Repair" movement that demands manufacturers make products that last longer and are easier to fix, BBC News reported.
By Seokheun Choi
It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.
Thailand has joined Vietnam and Malaysia in cracking down on the world's trash. Thailand will stop accepting more than 400 types of electronic waste (e-waste), including circuit boards, old TVs and radios, within six months, an environment ministry official told Reuters.
The decision was made Wednesday at a meeting chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister. Imports of plastic waste will also be banned in two years, although specific details of the program are not yet known, Reuters reported.
By Bob Schildgen
Hey Mr. Green,
Q: I've read that we waste a lot of energy with computers. How much do we waste, and what can be done to make things more efficient?
—Samuel, Denver, CO
A: The EPA has updated computer standards on a regular basis for the past 25 years, and each revision has marked a reduction in power consumption. The increasing use of laptops and other smaller devices, which need a lot less power than desktop models, has helped limit total energy consumption. Nevertheless, the EPA says we still waste at least a billion dollars worth of electrical power a year simply by running less-efficient computer equipment. This waste reaches the equivalent of around 15 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, or as much as 1.4 million motor vehicles. But the total waste may be actually much greater.
If you ever felt like your iPhone is getting slower over time, Apple has admitted that it deliberately slows down the processing speeds of phones with older batteries to stop them shutting down without warning.
The tech giant is ultimately doing a good thing—even if it's in a sneaky, backhanded way. Smartphone batteries certainly have a limited lifespan.
The amount of electronic waste around the world grew to a record 45 million tons in 2016, according to a United Nations-backed study released on Wednesday.
To put that in perspective, the weight of last year's e-waste was equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers, according to the study by the UN university, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association. The amount of e-waste—defined as anything with a plug or a battery—rose by eight percent since 2014, the time of the last assessment.