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The Environmental Cost of Computers

These days, we’ve become accustomed to replacing technology rather than repairing it.
However, this disposability in electronics comes at a cost. Without proper e-waste recycling, all the materials that went into producing the computers we use daily end up causing further pollution.

We need to be aware of the environmental cost of computers now more than ever, especially given how many vital functions are going digital. Without our electronics, we have a challenging time functioning. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of what goes into our computers.

 

Production

Computers require an extraordinary number of elements for their construction. To meet the demand, mining for these elements often occurs in unregulated environments. Compounding the environmental cost of computers, turning these raw minerals into usable circuitry frequently occurs in unsafe conditions.
Even 15 years ago, the United Nations was concerned about the practices for making computers.
Since then, technology became more complex and more replaceable. The manufacturing costs alone have kept increasing. Each  machine requires about ten times its weight in materials, not counting the water and carbon emissions.

 

Shipping

Since many manufacturers search for the cheapest components they can find, they’re often sourced from across the world. Then they’re gathered in a factory, typically outside of the country where they’re eventually sold. When they’re finally assembled, the computers ship to their final destinations.
All of this adds up to tremendous emission numbers, not to mention other resources. A sizable portion of the environmental cost of computers is in carbon emissions. Before the piece of technology even hits shelves it’s traveled thousands of miles.

 

In Use

Even while we the consumers have computers; they can be tied to other environmental consequences. As consumers, we tend to choose convenience. This means we leave our computers on so we can access our data immediately. We also tend to leave them plugged in even when they’re turned off.
All these little things add more to the environmental cost of computers. Depending on how our communities get their electricity, this added cost can compound very quickly over the life of our devices.

 

Disposal

Unfortunately, companies have been moving more towards a planned obsolescence model. That means that we are being herded into buying new laptops and other electronic gadgets, even if the only thing wrong with our old one is the software. The problem though is what we do with our The Environmental Cost of Computers.

Electronic waste cannot go to landfills. Not only does it have an exceedingly long decomposition time, but electronic waste tends to leak the toxic chemicals from its components. Things like lead and cobalt can poison soil and humans alike when it comes into contact with them.
The responsible course is to take sell laptops and electronics to a recycler. Electronics recyclers take the devices we don’t want and separate out the different components. The toxic elements are safely disposed of, while the rarer elements are put into new uses. When we choose to recycle our electronics, we’re doing a little to offset the environmental cost of computers.