First it was the fridge mountain, then it was the tyre mountain. Now discarded computers have got environmentalists worried.
According to a study released yesterday, 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 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 a billion and sales continue to rise at around 130 million 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 criticizes 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 to reduce and re-use things first and then worry about recycling," Williams said.
The study calls for governments to introduce tax breaks for people buying used computers instead of new ones.
European legislation demands that when computers are finally taken to the tip, 70 percent of the materials used to make them is recycled. Copper, gold and silver can all be recovered from discarded computers. But tonnes of old 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.
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.
"It's all very well for the UN to bleat, but business will only change if there's an incentive," he said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year