Most of us have a pretty tough time grasping magnitude. If we haven’t experienced it directly, it’s often difficult to imagine. And I think our inability to comprehend enormity contributes to our complacence toward environmental stresses. For example, we don’t come into direct contact with 7 billion people – we experience population in our local environs. Few of us can imagine the lives of people who currently live in a city that packs 111,002 people into one square mile.
For a moment, consider the predicted five devices per person in just this one square mile. Now we have half a million electronic devices and woefully inadequate means to handle them safely and responsibly at their end of life. Just to be clear, the enormity of the e-waste problem is not unique to mega cities. Globally, 2014 saw the creation of 41,800,000 metric tons of e-waste.
The problem would be less severe if we:
- Eliminate the toxic compounds in the devices
- Could get the most out of devices because they were designed with ease of repair in mind
- Could make electronics that are really part of the circular economy
We have no world governance ready to contend with the mounds of e-waste that, left unprocessed, become hazardous waste. Instead, individual governments attempt to legislate the handling of the electronic waste, but more attention needs to be given to addressing the root cause – namely, can we create electronics without toxic ingredients?
Addressing the entire life cycle of electronics, the Emerging Green Conference is bringing together leaders representing the work in progress at every stage. Participants will be looking at everything from the materials used, the impact of hazardous substances, and strategies for greener data centers and clouds to programs aimed at mitigating the e-waste problem.
As someone who thinks about e-waste pretty much all the time, I can’t wait to be with folks who are as passionate as I am about this topic. I’m especially looking forward to the session “E-Waste Solutions in Emerging Economies,” featuring Arrow’s own Scott Venhaus; Barbara Toorens, from the renowned NGO WorldLoop; and Jaco Huisman, scientific advisor from the United Nations University and co-author of the 2014 Global e-Waste Monitor.
Have questions about e-waste or the Emerging Green Conference? Drop me a line at email@example.com.
Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business, promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics at the IT asset dispositionstage, e-waste, and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carolbaroudi.
Photo “Guiyu e-waste town” permission to use: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guiyu-ewaste.jpg