Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Nokia moves to clean up electronic waste in Nigeria
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 00:16 Bill Okonedo

Nokia has hosted the local launch of its global programme to encourage mobile phone users to return old, broken and unused devices for recycling. The company has expanded its global “take back” programme to Nigeria and has placed “Take-Back” recycle bins in its Care Centres and designated retail outlets throughout the country. Between 65 and 80 percent of a Nokia mobile phone can be recycled and devices collected in the Nokia take-back bins will be forwarded to qualified recyclers for responsible reclaiming of the materials. The launch event took place in the Nokia Care Centre at Ahmodu Ojikutu Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The local initiative forms part of Nokia’s global take-back scheme, which currently covers 85 countries. The campaign is not only calling for the return of old Nokia devices, but rather any manufacturer’s devices and accessories can be dropped in the bins.
Environmentalists have complained over the years that Nigeria is not taking proper cognisance of the harmful content of electronic waste. They add that some electronic waste contain lead, mercury and cadmium. It is said that less than a tea spoonful of cadmium is sufficient to poison a small lake.
“Throughout this year we will be running a major training and awareness program designed to ensure that staff working in Nokia Care Centres, operated on behalf of Nokia, take back unwanted devices and can advise consumers on recycling issues,” comments Kola Osinowo, Care Manager Nokia Nigeria.
Research conducted by Nokia in 2008 based on interviews with 6,500 people in 13 countries including Finland, Germany, Nigeria, Sweden, UK, United Arab Emirates and Brazil revealed that only 3 percent of people recycle their mobile phones despite the fact that most have old devices lying around at home that they no longer use or want.
Two thirds of the energy consumed by a mobile phone during its usage is lost when the phone is fully charged and unplugged but the charger is left connected to the mains. This is termed “no-load” mode. In an effort to reduce this energy loss, Nokia became the first mobile manufacturer to put alerts into phones encouraging people to unplug their chargers when not in use.


Electronic afterlife

No one knows exactly how many millions of tonnes of discarded cell phones, computers, televisions, and other forms of electronic waste are exported annually from OECD to non-OECD countries, but their health and environmental effects are devastating.

Mar 30, 2009


Rarely are we confronted with the after-life of our electronics. From underneath layers of plastic, they initially offer speed or convenience, and when their use has expired or their value depleted, we might stash them in a garage, closet, or landfill. Or, we could opt for recycling or donation – words that can take on new, toxic connotations in the world of electronic waste.

The shift from cathode ray tube (CRT) to flat-screen computer monitors in the past couple of years is the most recent example of a technological redirection resulting in enormous amounts of discarded electronics. Instead of reaching the end of their functional lifetimes on work desks and in study spaces, the round-backed monitors are now stacked in warehouses, used as door stops in The Daily office, or, perhaps more likely, on a boat headed to Asia – along with millions of other tonnes of yesterday’s cell phones, laptops, printers, televisions, and other devices that make up electronic or e-waste. Not surprisingly, a truckload of CRTs awaiting shipment from Colorado to China adorns the cover of Giles Shades’ “Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America,” in which the freelance writer traces the roots of disposability as a marketing tool to the current e-waste problem.

Detailed reports on e-waste destinations like China, India, and Pakistan focus on the links between discarded electronics and a significant set of health and environmental repercussions. The town of Guiyu, China has become infamous for its illegal e-waste recycling operations: riverside hills turned into trash heaps, and the effects of chemical and metal leaching evident both in the brown water and the trucks that bring in barrels of clean water from elsewhere. Citizens of all ages dismantle, de-solder, and openly burn circuit boards, monitors, and printer toners to retrieve the precious metals packed deep within other plastics and glass.

With rubber boots often serving as their only protective wear, residents of Guiyu and other e-waste destinations expose themselves to other high-tech ingredients, including lead, cadmium, and mercury – part of the non-ferrous metals that make up 18 per cent of the material inside computers. First documented in a 2002 report headed by the two main activist groups working on e-waste, the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia” explains that lead, which can alone account for two kilograms of non-recyclable computer components, has long been shown to wreak havoc on child brain development, central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as kidney and reproductive systems, while exposure to mercury can also cause damage to the brain and kidneys. Despite these dangers, the shipments keep on coming – about 50 to 80 per cent of e-waste collected in North America finds its way to China, despite the country having banned the import of hazardous goods.

Consider another oft-quoted statistic: the United Nations (via an electronics magazine) estimates that between 20 and 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated each year. If this seems staggering, it should. Both the magnitude and uncertainty of this figure highlight several important issues in the e-waste problem.

No one knows exactly how much or what type of e-waste each country produces, or where it goes after collection. Environment Canada estimates that Canadians dispose of around 140,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, though their media reps couldn’t dig up the figure for 2008 before press time. However, according to a report by the Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks, this number was closer to 99,000 tonnes in 2005. It’s not long before these materials find themselves in the waste stream – the report states that electronic products have an average life span of three and a half years, with cell phones lasting only an average of two. Unlike other traded goods identified with the North American Industry Classification System, there are no internationally-agreed upon tariff codes or standards for measuring the global flows of e-waste, and researchers investigating this topic can spend over a year simply identifying and managing the variables they plan to use as proxies for their studies.

Josh Lepawski, a geography professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is one such professor. He says he became interested in e-waste about five years ago while studying the Malaysian government’s attempt to transform a predominantly agricultural landscape into a high-tech urban development modeled on Silicon Valley.

Around the same time that some academics were etching geography’s name on a tombstone, Lepawksi says, looking at material flows of waste was a good way to continue studying necessary material geographies. And materially, production of IT is incredibly intensive – Lepawski notes that while it may only weigh a few grams, a typical silicon chip weighs 600 times its primary inputs, whereas a typical automobile weighs only twice the materials and water that went into making it.

“As I’ve gotten more deeply involved, I’ve become increasingly interested in the broader questions of what is waste and for whom, and under what conditions. The flipside of that is, how does something called ‘value’ emerge from what we dispose of as waste here in Canada when it moves overseas and is worked on in particular locations with particular people and conditions,” says Lepawski. He soon refers back to the “tangly issues” over the varying definitions of waste and value, after touching on some health and economic impacts of e-waste recycling in Asia.

The current exporting habits of nations who are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – such as Canada, the U.S., Japan, and several European countries – to non-OECD nations has resulted in the often informal e-waste recycling sector becoming a significant survival strategy, something Lepawski found after a trip to Bangladesh. Beyond the well-publicized toxic hazards, around which he says there is no argument, Lepawski notes that the activist literature hasn’t addressed what might happen to the livelihoods of recyclers if e-waste trade flows were to stop tomorrow. Using a CRT screen as an example, Lepawski says that buying it as scrap, breaking it down, and selling it back into production activities can result in profits of upward of 200 per cent, or about $10 per computer – potentially exceeding profit margins of the companies who originally produced it, though BAN’s estimates put that number closer to US$6.

There have been, and continue to be, international initiatives to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries. Most significantly, a 1994 amendment to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal aims to prohibit developed countries from exporting e-waste to industrializing ones. Known as the Basel Ban, 64 countries have ratified the resolution, and the 1989 Basel Convention received 170 signatures – meaning 170 countries are legally bound to monitor their imports and exports of hazardous wastes. Despite being one of the world’s largest consumers, the U.S. is the only industrial nation that has yet to sign the Convention.

“It’s important to understand why there is an amendment at all,” says Sarah Westervelt, BAN’s project manager. Though nations came together with the original intention to ban OECD countries from shipping toxic materials to non-OECD countries, she explains, “the U.S. and Canada primarily succeeded in gutting [the Convention] of its purpose to completely ban the export of toxic waste.” Westervelt was firm in her response to findings over the current economic situation for those employed by e-waste recycling overseas. “We are not doing anybody a favour by giving them a highly toxic job. If we want to provide jobs to other countries, we need to give them safe and clean jobs.... Giving them our hazardous waste to break down, exposing them to [toxic contents], putting these immortal heavy metals into their environments is completely immoral, inexcusable, and should be stopped immediately.”

The need for manufacturer responsibility in resolving the e-waste problem, however, is unanimous across activist and academic circles. “Manufacturers are the solution; governments must be a part of it. It can pass laws to hold manufacturers responsible, to not produce in first place, and if they do generate toxic products, they must be responsible for taking them back,” Westervelt says, which may be why she and other BAN members have voiced support for Canada’s industry-led system of end-product responsibility. Currently in place in B.C., Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia, with a quasi-governmental version in Alberta, the Recycling Vendor Qualification Program (RVQP) uses a strict auditing procedure on all e-waste recyclers and their downstream partners to prevent both the export of hazardous or electronic materials to non-OECD countries and the use of prison labour, and to ensure quality health and safety for workers.

“Canada is a very good example where industry has stepped up and taken responsibility for environmental stewardship seriously,” says Jay Illingworth, who began his job as Harmonization Coordinator for the three provinces in January after working as vice president for Electronic Product Stewardship Canada. He explains that once Ontario joins the other provinces in using the RVQP on Wednesday, five provinces will cover computers, monitors, printers, and televisions. Cell phones are still handled under the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which administers its own recycling program through recyclemycell.ca. Nova Scotia’s program goes further by collecting audiovisual and telecommunications equipment like mp3 players, headphones, and VCRs. “It’s only matter of time before it’s coast to coast,” Illingworth adds.

The varying provincial systems all depend on an environmental handling fee added to the retail price of electronic goods, all of which go directly to the domestic, ethical recycling of the goods. More than 20,000 tonnes of electronic goods have been diverted from landfills, and Illingworth says these stable revenues are important to the programs’ success, since they’re not vulnerable to fluctuations in demand for the recycled goods like market-based programs are. “I don’t think [the handling fee is] taking pressure off manufacturers – it’s shifting responsibility form tax base and sending a strong message to consumers and producers,” he says.

Yet, in the provinces where the RVQP program is fully operational, e-waste recyclers are not forced to join. This means they don’t have access to the funds collected by retailers, but that they can continue exporting these goods overseas as long as it remains profitable. Both Illingworth and Lepawski acknowledged this pitfall, and noted the role of Canada’s small market share – made even smaller by provincially-mandated waste management policy, and complicated by imports and exports being a federal issue – in influencing actions of other major actors.

By not forcing all recyclers or e-waste collecters to participate in Alberta’s system, for instance, Lepawski says “the legislation is undermining its own intentions.” He also explains that, due to deindustrialization and the removal of necessary infrastructure, North America can’t handle the volumes of e-waste it produces. “[E-waste] is going as feed stock to the very facilities that used to be here.”

In 2006, RECYC-Québec estimates that of the electronics generated, five per cent was recycled, eight per cent stored, 34 per cent reused, and 53 per cent incinerated – meaning just under half of e-waste was reused, stored, or recycled inside the province. A new provincial policy over all waste materials is in the works, so the Ministry of Environment couldn’t divulge details over any possible provisions for e-waste, like the adoption of the RVQP. Through their publicly posted reports, the Ministry of Environment seems well aware of the health and environmental issues around the export of e-waste – an illegal action for Canada, considering it has signed the Basel Ban. Still, with no comprehensive system in place to monitor or audit the recyclers and any of their partners downstream, the eventual whereabouts of discarded or recycled electronics can’t be known for sure.

There are dozens of options for Montrealers looking to recycle their e-waste, and a full list is available on RECYC-Québec’s web site. However, only one – Redemtech’s Dorval location – is currently listed as a recognized e-Steward by BAN. The consumer demand for electronics pick-up is evident. Last year on Earth Day, 1-800-GOT-JUNK held 70 separate e-waste events across the U.S. and Canada, collecting an average of one to five tons of waste, mostly computer monitors. The company, whose media rep said it holds its recyclers to e-Steward-level audits – is planning to hold it again this year, though Montreal isn’t currently listed as a location on its Earth Day web site.

The demand for a service whose sole function is to pick up unwanted goods surely indicates our relationship with waste is out of whack. For Lepawski, this comes back to the varying definition of waste and value. “In the most abstract sense, waste – like value – is not an objective thing,” he says. “In Canada, an electronic item takes on waste characteristics because Canadians think or feel they need the latest upgrade, when they’re really spending more than 90 per cent of their time using word processing and the Internet.”

Another unfortunate reality is that Canadians looking to balance the guilt of a new, unnecessary item often choose to donate their old-but-functioning machines to people in developing nations. But shipments of computers – objects whose attributes change over time and space – soon wind up in landfills in Africa. “[Waste and value] emerge as a consequence of geographic differences of wage rates and environmental legislation, of relative wealth and poverty, and as a consequence of mobility from place to place,” Lepawski explains.


CE Industry Intensifies Green Programs TV Makers Push Recycling Efforts
By Greg Tarr -- TWICE, 3/30/2009

NEW YORK — Addressing the millions of tons of e-waste expected as the DTV transition rolls along, and the many confusing and disparate e-waste recycling policies among the 50 states, six major electronics manufactures have rolled out national collection efforts to simplify the process of responsible set disposal.

At issue immediately is creating a safe and convenient way for consumers to dispose of their unwanted electronics devices, particularly now that the nation is nearing the completion of its transition from an analog to all digital TV transmission system.

Like computers, televisions based on old cathode ray tube technology, and even some newer flat-screen sets, contain environmentally toxic elements including lead and mercury.

Among other things, if these substances accumulate in landfills, they can leach into the ground water and possibly run off into nearby streams, ponds and oceans.

Six states have passed laws making it illegal to simply throw a TV away in a landfill, and another five are expected to do so in 2010. Eighteen states, as well as New York City, have ordered electronic recycling programs.

Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics Take Back Coalition, an advocacy group for environmentally safe electronics recovery policies, said Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba have made “a start” in addressing the problem of the growing e-waste stream, but “we are interested in seeing a significantly more convenient network of collection opportunities. Otherwise consumers are not going to use them.”

The coalition recently issued a report card for electronics manufacturers' recycling efforts. None received an A and only Sony received a B minus. LG, Samsung and Wal-Mart followed with C's.

Most companies receiving lower grades did so for not having fully established networks of collection sites in place nationwide, according to a coalition statement.

Sony was among the first to get the recycling ball rolling in September 2007, when it launched its “Take Back” network of collection sites around the country. Those locations now have grown to more than 274 permanent depots across the country.

Sony started the program as one of the “first nationwide electronics-recycling programs” of its kind, targeting the collection of both waste TVs and other electronics devices, in association with WM Recycle America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management.

Sony has expanded the program since the launch to include the collection services of Eco International, which among other sites, has added certain UPS stations in Texas, Rhode Island and West Virgina as e-waste collection centers.

The program allows consumers to bring their end-of-life Sony TVs and other Sony products to one of the drop-off sites free of charge. Varying fees are assessed for products of other brands brought to the drop-off locations.

A Sony spokeperson said the Take Back program has collected more than 14 million waste electronics products since launch, and that Sony has appointed a team to audit the processing centers, recycling vendors and the collection points.

Similarly, last fall Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba, launched a comprehensive electronics-recycling program in select states, concentrated mostly on the Eastern seaboard, before ramping up to some 280 collection sites covering a full national footprint in early 2009. It is scheduled to reach more than 400 sites by the end of 2009, with a total goal of reaching 800 collection sites across the country by 2011, said Frank Marella, Sharp environmental affairs manager.

The effort is being coordinated by MRM, a jointly operated venture between Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba.

Like Sony's efforts, the MRM sites are designed to collect TVs and other electronics products as well. In most cases, end-of-life products are taken free of charge if they carry a Panasonic, Sharp or Toshiba brand. Depending on the site, they may or may not charge for products from other brands, Marella said.

However, one of the program's goals is to include other companies and manufacturers, offering them a turnkey collection solution, which they can use and advertise as their own, after signing onboard.

“If we are really going to make electronics recycling cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, we need economies of scale both on collection and on recycling,” said David Thompson, Panasonic corporate environmental affairs director. “We based our program on the idea of working collaboratively with other companies to implement it.”

For example, MRM teamed up on a pilot program basis with Goodwill in Austin, Texas, which provided 36 collection locations in the middle Texas area. The group is looking for similar opportunities in other areas.

Goodwill, which had worked in the past with Dell on taking back end-of-life computer products, was in need of a TV solution and approached MRM about joining the program.

The program is ideal for CE retailers as well, executives said.

Sharp's Marella said, “We've been in discussions with some retailers, and there are some participating with our programs in Oregon as customers now, but we have had discussions about bringing them on as part of the network.”

Matt Gobble, Toshiba environmental affairs senior manager, said the member companies maintain stringent oversight to ensure that products are taken back in accordance with the laws of each state, and efforts are carefully audited.

“We want to be able to ensure the products are recycled in both a cost-effective and environmentally safe manner,” Gobble said.

“We are working to eliminate all environmentally hazardous materials from our products. The limit on elimination of these things is where the technology is. Right now the products are lead-free. But there is 2.5 milligrams of mercury in the backlights. We have started selling some products already that used LEDs in place of the CCFL backlights,” Gobble added.

Samsung established Samsung Recycling Direct (SRD) on Oct. 1, 2008, as one of four electronics recycling programs, which together cover most the company's core product areas, said Kris Narayanan, Samsung's integrated marketing director.

The SRD portion covers TVs and other CE products and uses four electronics-recycling firms directly contracted by Samsung–Sims, CRT, Eco International and JFRC.

To date, the partners have established 206 drop-off centers throughout the 50 states, with plans to continually add new collection locations.

Each site accepts all Samsung-branded electronics goods — excluding home appliances — for no fee, as well as similar products from other brands at a fee determined by the local recycling center.

Samsung has also collaborated on recycling ventures with some of its retail partners. Wal-Mart and Samsung teamed to allow consumers to take back not only Samsung-branded CE products, but Wal-Mart-branded products — iLo and Durabrand — for no fee to all Wal-Mart customers.

In addition, Samsung established a permanent drop-off location at Abt Electronics in Chicago.

Samsung promotes the service with special events designed to create some buzz in the local markets by offering temporary drop off points in or near big venues, such as NASCAR races, NBA games and NFL rallies.

Narayanan said that by working directly with the recycler, instead of a collection firm, Samsung has more oversight and control over the responsible breakdown, recycling and disposal of waste materials.

Like Sony, LG Electronics has partnered with Waste Management on its national LG Electronics Recycling Program.

The program will accept unwanted LG-branded electronics products for free. Waste Management currently has 160 designated drop-off sites across the United States, with at least one drop-off site in each of the 50 states, and plans to expand that effort in 2009 and beyond.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Making It
Wireless networks that save both money and energy -- what's not to like?

By Vanesssa M. Gezari
Sunday, March 29, 2009; W04

ONE SUMMER DAY IN 2007, two 20-something computer geeks set out to test a new brand of wireless Internet router in an apartment building in Brookline, Mass.

Convinced that most commercially available routers were costly and ineffi cient, Ken Carnesi and Jonathan Rust had discovered an equipment line manufactured by the California startup Meraki. With a few strategically placed Meraki routers and a little experimentation, they built an ad hoc network that enabled them to get online from just about anywhere in Jonathan's 20-unit building.

That success was crucial to the genesis of Anaptyx, the environmentally friendly wireless networking company that Ken and Jonathan launched a few weeks later. With wireless technology expanding quickly, the two set out to help large customers, such as cities and major apartment complexes, create fast, reliable wireless networks that cost less, conserve energy and reduce e-waste, the vast amount of electronic equipment left to rot in landfills. Based in Arlington and Boston, Anaptyx builds "mesh" networks that can replace expensive individual Internet connections.

"We cover four or five apartments with a single wireless router that uses less electricity than any router you can buy," says Ken, 24. In a 100-unit apartment complex in Boston, the networks save about $2,500 a year in electricity costs, he says, and conserve about 21 tons of carbon, the amount an average American produces in a year.

Ken and Jonathan, who is 27, met in 2007, when Jonathan hired Ken as a summer intern at A.G. Edwards in Boston, where Jonathan managed offi ce staff and worked as a broker. They had both studied business as undergraduates at Boston College and designed Web sites for cash, and they shared a desire to build their own tech company.

In August 2007, they quit the brokerage firm and started Anaptyx with $6,000 each in savings and $30,000 from a private investor. They've since built free public WiFi networks in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., and in Nashua, N.H., and are working on another in Dorchester, a low-income Boston neighborhood. Their networks serve about 2,100 apartment and condo units in New England and Arlington, and in Maryland they're building a network at a 300-slip marina in Pasadena.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, hired Anaptyx last year to set up a 24-acre outdoor WiFi network and has raved about the company to anyone who calls for networking advice. Since June 2008, about 41,000 users have accessed the network, which has run beautifully, Jillson says, and remained aff ordable. "Other municipalities have spent millions to bring outside wireless access, and to date we've spent less than $20,000." Anaptyx also provides tech support.

The company broke even last summer and now has four full-time employees in addition to its co-founders. Th e company grossed about $250,000 last year, Jonathan says, with a net of about $70,000 after hardware, employee salaries and other expenses. Th e company takes its name from the Greek word "anaptyxi," which, according to the company Web site, means expansion, or the fostering of expansion. That concept is key for Ken, who lives in Boston, and Jonathan, a Crystal City resident who's fi nishing his MBA at the University of Maryland.

"We pay ourselves based on how well we've done over the month or over two months," Jonathan says. "For us, it's not about the money. It's really about growing the company."

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Richard Siegersma wrote (and has agreed to my posting this):

Hi Toby,

I empathise with you.

After seeing so much waste and inaction in the publishing world, I'm delighted to see that you have taken a stand for common sense.

We too are looking for smarter ways to work.

Recently we installed an Espresso Book Machine in a bookstore so books can be printed in store avoiding all the airfreight (imported books) trucking and fuel costs. 25 Kg of greenhouse gas is burnt for every one kilogram book imported to Australia - and that is just the airfreight.

Our local short printrun book printing facility allows us to get around having to import books from the UK and US. Unfortunately pubishers are slow to adopt this new way of thinking as they have big warehouses that need to be fed.

We also sell a large range of ebook readers avoiding the use of paper for black and white publications.

Our most recent initiative an information and resource delivery system (TEXT) aims to have eTextbooks avaiable to ALL students on day one of first semester. Another dream that is becoming reality.

I thought it was important for you to know you are not alone. Like minded 'innovators' (!) need to collaborate and communicate.

Be keen to keep in touch. Maybe we can make some titles available here in an environmentally friendly way.


Richard Siegersma

Executive Chairman
DA Information Services
Central Book Services
648 Maroondah Hwy
Mitcham Vic 3132 Australia
P: +61 (0)3 92107793
M: +61 (0)413 947301

Friday, March 20, 2009



Monday, March 16, 2009


From the Los Angeles Times
At Art Center College of Design, sustainability meets form and function
The private college hopes to be a global leader in stylish designs that leave small carbon footprints and don't end up in landfills.
By Reed Johnson

March 15, 2009

Radhika Bhalla dreamed of empowering women in her native India by designing an attractive, multipurpose bicycle cart made of inexpensive, easily obtained local materials. At present, many rural Indian women must haul heavy loads of firewood and flour bags by hand, on foot.

Bhalla calculates that the new carts could save up to five hours of walking per day. That, in turn, could help win over husbands who traditionally don't like to see their womenfolk getting too mobile and independent.

"As long as there's monetary gain, men are interested," said Bhalla, a 25-year-old student at Art Center College of Design, the nearly 80-year-old Pasadena school that's one of the world's foremost hothouses of art and design innovation.

Now, Art Center has a new goal that is being enthusiastically embraced by students and faculty alike: to make the private college a global leader in stylish, consumer-seducing designs that also leave small carbon footprints and don't end up rotting in landfills.

In the three years since the school adopted sustainability as one of its core values, students have responded with a wave of imaginative, bold projects. Spencer Nikosey is fabricating a line of ruggedly attractive designer bags and totes made out of materials such as Army truck surplus tarps and salvaged city of Pasadena fire hoses that had been damaged and deemed no longer of use. He then contracted with what he describes as an "old world" Los Angeles company to manufacture the bags, and accessorized them with numbered dog tags to give them the cachet of limited-edition exclusivity.

A big part of the value of his bags, Nikosey believes, derives from their unusual pedigree and personal history. "To me, high-end is about the story and the feeling."

Sharon Levy invented a sleek-looking, single-serving electric tea set to reduce the amount of energy that tea drinkers waste heating excess water. (The Brits alone spew out thousands of tons of carbon dioxide every day doing this.) "I decided that was a good opportunity to change the user behavior. It's supposed to encourage a sustainable lifestyle," said Levy, 31, a seventh-term student.

All these projects reflect the new philosophy at Art Center, which was founded in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression, a time, like our own, when designers were searching for game-changing new methods and models to replace ones that were worn out or no longer feasible.

In recent years the college -- which has about 1,400 undergraduates and 150 graduate students, 22% of them from overseas -- has reshuffled its curriculum and shaken up its hilltop campus by making sustainability a central tenet of everything that its students design and develop. Design's dynamic duo of form and function has officially been replaced by the holy trinity of form, functionality and sustainability. Eco-consciousness is now a given in many design and architecture curricula, but leaders at Art Center think they are in the vanguard of using it as an organizing principle.

Many of these products not only are more environmentally friendly and durable but also better looking and (that ineffable quality) cooler -- if also, in some cases, slightly more expensive -- than the energy-gorging, hard-to-recycle ones they aim to replace.

Nikolaus Hafermaas, the college's acting chief academic officer, said that a combination of student demand and faculty awareness caused the school to make sustainability central to its mission, following up on recommendations by the cross-departmental faculty council and a white paper issued five years ago.

"My personal goal would be that the S-word is placed out in no time and we don't have any dedicated sustainability class anymore because it's so ingrained in everything we do here and it's a no-brainer," he said in his chicly minimalist offices in the 175-acre, Craig Ellwood-designed campus.

Of course, Art Center's endeavors in planetary protectionism won't amount to much if the students don't make things that consumers actually want to buy. Designers may be hybrids of artists and social engineers, but they're also technical problem solvers who must keep their clients happy.

To achieve that synthesis, Hafermaas thinks designers must continue to move beyond what he regards as a false dichotomy between beauty and ecological correctness. Growing up in Germany in the 1970s and '80s, during the first wave of the Green movement, he witnessed the puritanical rigidity of this either/or paradigm.

"Not too long ago, things that looked too good were deeply suspicious to people who thought they owned the [righteous] cause," he said. "Do you want to have beautiful and toxic, or do you want to have the good stuff that looks like crap? If you looked too slick, you were the enemy."

In the past, Art Center instructors said, making a product environmentally friendly sometimes was treated as an afterthought, once the design already was completed. Now, before they start making preliminary sketches or models, students in the Design for Sustainability class must submit their projects to a "lifecycle analysis," breaking down their projects into components of "inputs" of energy and materials and "outputs" of emissions and waste, and plot their product's entire projected lifeline, from resources, manufacture and point of sale to consumer use and beyond.

Students also are encouraged to design products that, if they break down, can be easily disassembled and have their individual parts replaced without having to trash the whole thing.

"Lifecycle analysis is the driver for the design, it's not something we do later," said Heidrun Mumper-Drumm, an Art Center adjunct associate professor who co-teaches Design for Sustainability.

In addition, all classroom activities must conform to a list of "Positive Practice Protocols." A sort of Ten Commandments of eco-friendly classroom conduct, they include such injunctions as "No coated paper" and "Put the laptop in sleep mode when leaving the room." "It's a bit preachy, and I'm very careful not to go there, but the students seem to want this," Mumper-Drumm said.

Leslie Evans, 27, incorporated her school's prevailing vision into her "Vespera Hairdryer." Hair dryers are notorious for being hard to disassemble when parts fail and need replacing, Evans said. Her prototype is easy to unscrew and its internal components can be readily accessed and replaced and/or recycled. "A lot of people think about sustainability as something that's nice to do or the right thing to do, but actually it's becoming a financial imperative," she said.

Sustainable design isn't merely an ivory-tower exercise at Art Center. Under the leadership of a student-faculty alliance, the school has set out to make the entire campus a case study in eco-friendly efficiency.

A main component of that effort is the Eco Council, a rotating group of 20 to 30 students who identify and analyze problems and promote solutions. This could be eliminating Styrofoam and converting to compostable food-ware in the campus cafeteria, implementing an on-campus bike tuneup program to encourage more students to pedal to class or installing solar panels so students and faculty can power up laptops while soaking up sun.

'Responsible design'

Faculty and administrators stress that what they're really teaching is "comprehensive design," giving their students a tool box that will help them orchestrate new approaches to solving social problems in concert with engineers, scientists, urban planners, artists and others. In 2001, a campus-wide initiative, Designmatters, was launched to assist students in creating humanitarian design proposals. Projects have included portable shelters for homeless individuals and collaborating in creating a community in Kenya for orphans and elderly people with AIDS.

"It's not about teaching stand-alone sustainability, it's really about truly responsible design," said David Mocarski, chairman of environmental design.

Several previous design revolutions, such as Britain's late 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement and the German Bauhaus of the 1920s and '30s, were triggered by social upheavals and a perception that then-prevailing design and manufacturing practices were wasteful and outmoded. Art Center students and faculty said that, rather than feeling restrictive, the school's imposition of sustainability mandates has spurred them to think more expansively.

And the ideas keep coming. A student team is developing a gray-water recycling kit that someday could become as much of a standard bathroom fixture as a shower curtain. Kam Leang, a 28-year-old from Utah, discovered during research that residents of Tokyo annually discard 400,000 umbrellas. So he came up with a streamlined umbrella made of recyclable materials that unfolds as gracefully and sculpturally as a piece of origami. He's proposing to stock them in vending machines so that commuters and shoppers can buy and return them on a pay-per-use basis.

School officials are confident that, even in the current sour economic climate, its graduates will be highly employable. Dice Yamaguchi, who led the Eco Council for three terms, now works for Applied Minds, a small Glendale company whose employees include artists, scientists and engineers. Among his designs are lightweight, bamboo-stick frames that can be used to support laptop computers, iPods and other consumer electronics. He recently sold a batch of the laptop stands, which cost $15 apiece, to a Singapore store, and he has a waiting list.

But the school also recognizes that sustainability as a concept is still in its infancy. Although more industries are starting to assimilate it, some likely see it mainly as a marketing opportunity and a way to preempt stricter government regulation.

Changing behavior on an idyllic college campus is only the start of what Art Center's denizens know will be a much bigger, longer and harder task. "We're at an amazing time for designers because they've seen the pitfalls of what Modernism did, and did not, do so well," Mocarski said. "We do have the one major mountain that more is still more. Bigger is still better and shinier is still better, and it's going to be hard to change in this country."

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Article - http://www.campusreview.com.au/pages/section/article.php?s=Comment&idArticle=6696
What green deal?

16 Mar 09 | Print this story | Send this story to a friend

It started over breakfast and ended with his resignation. Why Toby Miller quit the University of California Press.

I just resigned from the editorial committee of the University of California Press. Most university committees I have served on are boring. They achieve little more than generating alibis for those who run them not to do research and to make themselves feel important and valued. But this one wasn’t like that – it actually did real things that mattered. So why did I leave?

Let’s examine how university presses in the US function. After decades of expansion, they have contracted drastically in recent years, and culled their lists. So literary theory and criticism, for example, became a deadweight – no one buys such books any more. Several presses just won’t publish these works nowadays, including California. Sorry, critical theorists - your day was the day before yesterday.

In the case of the press I served on, we produced both big sellers – atlases of California, wine books about local vineyards, and earthquake tracts – as well as highly specialised ones, such as drawings of incredibly ugly, tiny fish that live in harbors around the world and have bizarre mating rituals observed by keen-eyed harbourmasters.

University presses work by in-house editors recruiting manuscripts. Once these have been completed, they are evaluated by subject area experts. Then the editors present them to the good and the great (or in my case, the Toby) for final approval. The UC Press does this last part differently. Even though the faculty who serve on the editorial committee have not been involved up to that point, we present the books to the other committee members – not the editors. Only the professor proposing the work has read the whole thing – the others receive just a few pages, and the reviewers’ reports.

I found this slightly nutty. It meant I often presented works that I’d never have commissioned and didn’t like very much. But I put up with the process, in the hope that I could influence future directions. And the committee and the editors were very interesting. I enjoyed the banter and the opportunity to learn more about the political economy and culture of publishing. That enjoyment ended last month.

You may recall earlier columns about the financial crisis here in California – world’s eighth biggest economy and world’s wackiest budgetary process, all rolled into one under the control of a steroid-addled bodybuilder proud of his Nazi Party father. Amongst other things, the financial problems have necessitated belt-tightening across the university system. So the press decided to stop offering breakfast at our meetings, and asked us how that would affect our travel. The backdrop to this is that there are 10 campuses of the UC, from right across the state. Almost all the nine annual meetings are held in Berkeley, which is nowhere near either an airport or a major railway, so many people have to fly then get a cab for 90 minutes for a one-day event.

In response to ideas about shifting the meeting times, people wrote emails about leaving home at 4.30 am and other hardships. I run a blog about the environmental impact of new technology (take a peek - greencitizenship.blogspot.com) and have been writing papers for some years now on the topic. I decided this was the opportunity to weigh in.

Here was my idea – we should meet in person once a year, for two or three days, to get to know new members and discuss the wellbeing of the press, the future of publishing, and so on. Given only one of us reads each manuscript in full, other meetings could be held by iChat (best) or Skype (second best). As a consequence, we would save money and reduce the carbon impact of our profligate travel.

I was unprepared for the hostility this drew from my fellow hegemons. How can you treat authors like this? How can you suck up to management by cutting costs? How can you put faith in technology over face-to-face interaction?

Well, pardon me for living. First, I think authors are not getting a good deal through the metaphysics of presence, since it hasn’t meant more people read their full texts than would otherwise be the case. Second, it’s laughable to accuse someone with my politics of sucking up to management. And third, technology over face to face? Many people at the meeting barely speak, and most decisions draw little comment. Is it a crime to break that up?

After receiving numerous denunciations and no support, I resigned. I could no longer continue; not because I lost the debate, but because my ideas were impugned. I was surprised at the vehemence of the response. Here we are, in the state that contributed more to cybertarian dreams than any other place in the world, and a modest proposal for cutting air and car travel was too much. Good luck with your Green New Deal, President Obama.

Toby Miller is professor of English, women’s studies and sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


March 2009 — Special Feature
The Dirt on E-Waste

by Dian Schaffhauser

Environmentalism isn't measured only by green purchasing. A healthy, green disposal method is the back end of a district's responsible energy plan.

The Dirt on E-WastePOP QUIZ! What happens to your computer equipment when you've declared it surplus? Does it get shuffled into a warehouse, awaiting attention at some unspecified later date? Do you stick it on a pallet and have it hauled away by a recycler? Do you sell it, refurbish it, ship it back to a vendor, or drive it to the dump?

Don't know? You're not alone. Most smart technology leaders can name multiple efforts they've already taken or expect to pursue in their schools to "green up" IT operations, such as powering off idle computers and virtualizing the data center. But one area that many of them may not be so savvy about is hardware disposal: What to do with the old stuff? After all, it's not something from which they can garner easy or obvious savings. But, as some districts have figured out, the disposal end of technology acquisition is as vital a part of purchasing decisions as choosing energy-efficient devices.

Nobody knows precisely how much e-waste is generated by schools nationwide. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans on the whole throw out about 130,000 computers a day. That tallies up to 47.5 million a year. And the numbers can only grow. Technology market researcher Gartner estimates that 15.6 million new PCs were shipped in the US during just the fourth quarter of 2008-- and that was during an economic slowdown. It's safe to assume that the work of schools to refresh their technology contributes a fair share to that count.

So what should you do when you don't want your old machines anymore? It isn't sufficient to simply say, Recycle! Those good intentions often come to bad ends. According to a study by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which advocates for a clean and safe high-tech industry, up to 80 percent of e-waste taken to recycling centers in this country ends up being exported to towns in developing countries for scrap recovery. There, according to a CBS 60 Minutes report last November titled "The Electronic Wasteland," residents, including children, use crude and toxic means to dismantle computers, monitors, and other electronics in an effort to remove precious metals, such as gold.

That's antithetical to what US educators want, explains Sarah O'Brien, outreach director of the Green Electronics Council, a Portland, OR-based organization that works for the environmentally safe use and reuse of electronic products. O'Brien educates purchasers and the public about the GEC's EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), a system that helps green-minded buyers by establishing criteria that identify just how green a computing device is. "A lot of the criteria that have to do with toxics have a direct impact on kids," she says. "Not [just] the kids in the district-- children across the world."

But districts that approach the disposal of their old, unwanted computer equipment with the proper diligence are finding that they have several options, all of which illustrate why unloading e-waste doesn't have to be dirty work.
Recycling or Asset Recovery?

RECYCLING AND ASSET RECOVERY are two concepts that people in the waste disposal industry bandy about, but the two terms actually have distinct meanings, which you'll want to know when you discuss the disposal of surplus technology. The word recycling in the general population means to put something back into play, but has a different context in the e-waste business.

"We view it as breaking something down to the component level," says Craig Johoske, director of asset recovery services at Epic Systems, which calls itself an asset recovery firm. In that sense, recycling means breaking apart a piece of equipment to recover its plastic, glass, metals, and other elements. " Asset recovery [means] selling equipment on behalf of the client and then splitting the proceeds with them," Johoske explains.

Another School's Treasure

Before the concept of e-waste recycling was better understood, Union School District in San Jose, CA, would rent giant waste containers at great expense. The bins would be labeled "recyclable materials," recalls Mary Allen, supervisor of maintenance and operations. "But back then nobody paid attention. All we were told was, 'You can't put concrete or dirt in there.' We dumped everything. When I first started with the district, we had piles and piles of this stuff, because nobody knew what to do with it." Once the district learned that monitors and TVs were hazardous waste, says Allen, it held on to them.

The 4,000-student district picked up the disposal costs-- about $1,000 dollars a year-- until a company came along that offered to haul away the whole lot of electronics for free, including monitors, computers, copy machines, and printers. "We knew that they broke down every unit and disposed of them separately," she says. "The glass went one place. They were actually recycling the units." Now the district could divert that disposal expense to other purposes.

Then, in 2005, Allen learned about InterSchola, a company that inventories a district's surplus hardware and handles selling it on eBay and other auction sites. Suddenly, the job of getting rid of old equipment could be a money maker.

"It was a great experience," says Allen. "I dealt with one person in particular. He came out and did a field visit. He took pictures and kept me posted via e-mail: 'Okay, we're going to post these on eBay as of this date. This is the starting price we're going to ask.'" Allen could monitor the auctions to see how well the bidding was going. On that first sale, she says, "we made a good $5,000 to $6,000." A recent sale netted between $3,000 and $4,000.

InterSchola, launched in 2004, has worked with about 250 districts in California and New York, selling not only old electronic components but also school buses, maintenance carts, and furniture. For some goods, state law may require that a school district's board must declare a piece of equipment as surplus before it can be disposed of at public auction. It's that process-- from development of the list of items that goes to the local board for approval on through to the shipping of the equipment to the final buyer-- that is handled by InterSchola.
Breaking Down an E-Cycler

Is the Future Now For A.I.?AT REDEMTECH, a Columbus, OH-based IT asset recovery provider certified by the Basel Action Network as an "e-steward," great care is taken, says Jim Mejia, Redemtech's vice president of environmental affairs, with either route an electronic product can go once it has been turned over to the company: refurbishing and reselling, or conversion into its base components.

The process for preparing, for example, a school laptop for resale at Redemtech goes like this: The company picks up the laptop at the school, where the machine is labeled, scanned, packaged, then loaded onto a truck and driven away. It's rescanned upon arrival at the e-waste facility to ensure that no sensitive data was lost in transit. At that point, the unit is registered into a database.

Next, the machine is put through an assembly line. A worker typically does a hard-drive erasure to Department of Defense standards, making all data on the drive virtually unrecoverable. Redemtech is a Microsoft authorized refurbisher. Therefore, if the computer has value, it's cleaned up and reloaded with Microsoft Windows XP or Vista, allowing it to be reused. From that point, it's shipped to one of the resale channels used by the company, including 21 Micro Center stores, run by Redemtech's parent company, Micro Electronics.

It's also possible that the unit will be dismantled by hand and resalable components shipped to a secondary market or overseas for additional processing and resale. "That's where my responsibility starts," Mejia says.

Each type of e-waste is sent to an appropriate conversion partner. It's Mejia's job to ensure that the facilities his company works with are "clean and have good pollution control technology that not only protects the community but also ensures their employees aren't exposed to toxins."

A "converter," as Mejia calls the partnering company, will take the unit and convert it into its components. For example, a 67-pound, 19-inch Sony monitor can be disassembled into the following: 5 pounds of steel, 3 pounds of aluminum, 1 pound of copper, a fraction of an ounce of brass, 5 pounds of electronic board, 13 pounds of plastic, and 40 pounds of cathode ray tube. Each part can be sold to a foundry or processor. Mejia says that essentially the entire unit can be recycled. That includes the CRT, which has its own composition of elements, including lead and glass; the circuit card, which contains copper, lead, and chromium; and the plastic, which is an oil-based derivative.

By-products-- those components of the unit that have no value to anybody after the e-waste treatment-- are considered hazardous waste. Those elements end up in large, sealed containers and buried in carefully regulated hazardous waste landfills with groundwater protection and other controls.

"A lot of people are ingrained in thinking that once they're done with something, it must be at the end of its lifecycle," says Melissa Rich, InterSchola's president and founder. "While it may not make financial sense for your district to repair those items, there may be districts for which purchasing your old stuff is exactly what they need. And it really does extend the life of technology. That's what we all want to do."

About 80 to 85 percent of the equipment accepted and listed by InterSchola ends up selling through eBay or another marketplace. What doesn't find a buyer is released back to the district. The company recommends recyclers that will, for a fee, remove equipment from a district.

Often, outdated electronics equipment that has been deemed as "surplus" by the district's board doesn't have much financial value. In that case, InterSchola won't attempt to sell it. "They're very honest," says Allen. "We've had some big TVs. They've told us, 'There's no market for that.' Those end up going to the recycling company."

Chasing the Chain

That's the part that worries Rich Kaestner. Since the launch of the Consortium for School Networking's (CoSN) Green Computing Leadership Initiative last year, Kaestner, the initiative's project director, has been waist-deep in e-waste. He has grown skeptical of the motives of some disposal providers: "How much of it is greenwash," he asks, referring to business efforts that are packaged as environmentally motivated but in fact have other designs, "and how much of it is really doing the right thing?"

Kaestner praises asset recovery efforts, but wonders about the fate met by the items deemed unfit for recovery and resale and handed off to a recycler. It's the toxic outcome of a lack of attention to that end of the process that 60 Minutes exposed. He says the problem is a lack of transparency at every point on the trail: What we see is the removal, not the disposal, so we can't know with certainty whether the leftovers are truly dispensed of in a safe manner. "I'm not sure if you follow the chain that everything gets to where it needs to be," he says.

A case in point of taking the good with, potentially, the bad is the take-back option some vendors, like Apple, HP, and Lenovo, provide to districts that buy their hardware products; the maker offers to "take back" a district's old systems. Arlington Public Schools in Virginia has such an arrangement with Dell.

In the last five years, Arlington has virtualized its network office, modified technology purchase orders to mandate compliance with the federal Energy Star program, and taught its users to shut off workstations at the end of the day to reduce energy usage. Though the motives were mainly financial, the outcomes have been greatly environmental.

A recently board-approved initiative will allow the district to refresh its computers every three years. That means in another two years all the machines in Arlington will have been replaced. "We'll be using machines that are more energy-efficient, and that will allow us to keep up with energy standards in the industry," Assistant Superintendent Walter McKenzie says.

That in turn means a surge of old machines being put out to pasture. Fortunately, the district already has a destination in mind for them, one journeyed by, according to McKenzie, the 9,750 computers, 38 LCD projectors, and two interactive whiteboards the district has disposed of during the past five years. The computers will follow one of two routes away from the schools where they have been in use: They may go through an auction process or be taken back by Dell, the supplier of the new PCs.

Dell's Asset Recovery and Recycling Services site describes a multi-part process to customers. The company will pick up the old equipment, ship it to its facilities, wash it of all data, perform an audit to determine the remaining value, then help the district resell it to a third party. Dell can also have the hardware donated to the National Cristina Foundation, which passes it along to charities, schools, and public agencies for reuse.

"Everybody takes their piece of usable equipment out of it, and that's good," Kaestner says. "That's a good start."

It's a third option listed by Dell that raises his doubts. The company offers districts the choice of having their obsolete goods broken down and the parts handled by "specific partners who specialize in the disposal of each unique material." Kaestner says the promise of an "environmentally sensitive" disposal is one that can't be taken on faith. "Who takes the pieces out?" he asks. "Who is concerned that mercury and cadmium and all the rest of that nasty stuff doesn't go into the groundwater and eventually into streams? In order to feel like we're really doing the right job here, you have to chase the whole chain."

Kaestner says he hopes and suggests districts and vendors follow through with whatever e-cycler receives their unusable goods so that the items meet the healthy disposition the organizations intend. "We don't know how much rigor they put into the processing of stuff that cannot be recycled," he says. "It's more of a question and not an accusation."

Dell, it should be pointed out, has a "Be a Responsible Neighbor" provision in its recycling program that prohibits materials that pose a threat to the environment from being deposited in developing countries unless its own Asset Recovery Services Council has approved of the exportation channel.

Kaestner hopes CoSN will be able to research this issue in the future, but for now it's not a priority, mostly because the takeback programs are so new. "By new, I mean months old," he says. "They haven't been around a long time. One announces it, and then all the others jump onto the bandwagon in a hurry."

"The Electronic Wasteland," 60 Minutes' story on what happens to many discarded electronic goods, can be viewed here.

Calling All E-Stewards

Chad Stevens participates in CoSN's Green Computing Initiative. About the same time that he moved from being a school principal into the CTO role for Texas' Clear Creek Independent School District, located between Houston and Galveston in Johnson Space Center country, a new energy manager joined the district. "We were talking about some simple ways we could save energy without spending money," he recalls. "A combination of two interests-- sustainability and saving energy-- led me to volunteer, just to learn more about it." That participation in the CoSN project, in turn, provided him with a crash course in green initiatives.

Stevens and his IT team have begun automating the power settings of monitors and computers, virtualizing the data center, and piloting a possible thin-client computer transition. One issue they face is how to maintain a strong obsolescence policy-- no computer is older than five years-- with a student enrollment that's growing at 1,000 kids a year. "We're refreshing our computers, but we're running on a treadmill," Stevens says. "How long can we sustain our investment?"

Whether the district ultimately replaces existing machines with comparable models, albeit newer ones, or thin clients, a lot of equipment will need to be disposed of in their wake. In 2008, the district replaced 2,500 computers between January and April. The hardware was hauled away by Epic Systems, a company that offers recycling of computers at the expense of $10 to $15 apiece. But that invites the question that goes to the heart of the issue: What does Epic do with the hardware?

Shortly after the 60 Minutes story on e-waste aired, the Basel Action Network (BAN), an international organization that focuses on writing policies and legislation dealing with e-waste and that served as an adviser on the 60 Minutes piece, announced a formal program to certify electronics recyclers and asset managers as "e-stewards." Accreditation requires proof that the company isn't dumping e-waste into landfills or incinerators and isn't exporting e-waste to developing countries.

* Basel Action Network
* Consortium for School Networking
* Dell
* eBay
* ECS Refining
* Epic Systems
* Green Electronics Council
* Gartner
* InterSchola
* National Cristina Foundation
* Natural Resources Defense Council
* Redemtech
* Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

It is these standards Epic says it adheres to by virtue of hiring out to ECS Refining, listed by Basel as an e-steward. Because ECS Refining bears the BAN stamp of approval, Stevens can be confident Epic plays by the rules. "I can look anybody in the eye and say our computers aren't ending up in a landfill," he says.

According to CoSN's Kaestner, that's the way all old electronics should be handled. "The stuff that can be recycled, if we want to be good, green world citizens, should go through an organization that's been approved by BAN," he says. "That's the best we've got."

A Refreshing Solution

The current drop in commodity pricing with copper, aluminum, and even crude oil is affecting the sustainability of the overall value of the makeup of e-waste. "You're losing money on the process," says Jim Mejia, vice president of environmental affairs for Redemtech, certified by BAN as an e-steward. "So you try to make it up on the recycle fees."

In other words, the dismantling and conversion of components that have no resale value, which is a labor-intensive process, has a price tag. When recyclers can't make money reselling metal or glass, they will make it up elsewhere in the supply chain by charging more to the customer needing to dispose of those materials-- the school district, in this case.

Mejia has a suggestion for districts wanting to offset disposal costs: Refresh your technology more often, while it still has reuse value for someone else. "There's a refresh cycle that's sustainable, when you're going to get the peak value for your used equipment," he says. "Yes, you could use it longer, but in the end, you won't recognize value." The moral: Better too soon than too late. That way, says Mejia, "the district ends up with a check at the end."

If you would like more information on e-waste disposal, visit our website at www.thejournal.com. In the Browse by Topic menu, click on recycling.

Dian Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Nevada City, CA.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Fabulous story by the BBC's Ethical Man here, including an interview with Darryl Hannah. Fun.


Friday, March 6, 2009


Ground Floor: Who cares about e-waste in Ghana?

Posted By admin On March 6, 2009 @ 10:55 am In Editorials/Opinion | No Comments
Discarded computer cases in Ghana [1]

Discarded computer cases in Ghana

I am dedicating my column this week to the critical problem of e-waste dumping in Ghana.

There is now no doubt, that Ghana is a choice destination for dumping of e-waste from America and Europe.

Recent developments in Europe, particularly, the UK and Holland paint a very clear picture of the horror the country is confronted with.

Since I first wrote an informative article for the Daily Graphic which the newspaper published in its June 5, 2007 edition, and subsequently wrote an online version of the story drawing attention to the dangers the country could possibly be faced with in the event that we gloss over the increasing presence of health and environment threatening e-waste in Ghana, not much has happened in the country.

I have subsequently written a number of articles on the subject and still do.

Indeed, not even the media in Ghana has seen the issue as a major problem deserving of the kind of attention that it gives to some of the mundane issues we hear in the electronic media and read in the press.

The only time the media in Ghana did any coverage of the issue as it would some of the other issues of importance to it, was when a press conference was held on it or when the international media covered the issue.

Even though, I have worked for some radio stations in this country, my efforts to encourage producers and presenters to give the matter some attention did not receive any appreciable response. In one or two instances, the matter was touched but only after some other media has reported it.

As for government agencies tasked with monitoring and protecting Ghana’s environment and the health of citizens, the least said about them the better.

All the time that I have been contacted on the subject, it has been by foreign individuals, organizations or media. Most of the work and report that has been done on e-waste in Ghana, apart from those I have done and what my good friend Mike Anane has been doing, have been done by foreigners. And this leads me to ask; who cares about e-waste in Ghana?

On August 5, 2008, Greenpeace released a report on Ghana, which detailed the extent of pollution the country is exposed to due to the presence of e-waste in the country. And I found out later that, the international organization, actually followed up on my works to do their investigation.

Following that, one of the biggest publications in Germany Süddeutsche Zeitung sent down one of their editors, Michael Bitala to consult me on the subject in Ghana and he subsequently did a story which has awaken Germans to the magnitude of the problem in Ghana.

After his article, a German TV station, Proseiben flew down a crew to consult with me and did a documentary on the subject.

So far, as a journalist, I feel like a lone crusader on the subject that affects Ghana. I do feel lonely sometimes in this quest. I did not choose to, I got involved in the matter as part of my duty. I wasn’t even paid to write on the subject – I did it all as part of my regular writings on matters of local importance that have global relevance, just as I have written extensively on the global food and energy crisis, financial meltdown and the biofuels debate.

In a telephone conversation I had this morning March 6, 2009, with Dutch journalist, Weert Schenk of Volkskrant newspaper, something hit me so hard. He told me nine Ghanaians have been cited in the deadly trade of exporting e-waste from the Netherlands to Ghana.

Eight people have been arrested in the east of the country.

He told me these people have been involved in the deadly trade since 2003 or even earlier.

The eight who were arrested included three Turkish citizens and five Ghanaians, but in keeping with Dutch laws, police have not released their names to the media.

The British authorities have also arrested a man in Sussex and he has been released on bail awaiting court appearance in May 2009.

The export of e-waste from Europe is illegal and a contravention of the WEEE. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive stipulates that Information Technology (IT) manufacturers are legally responsible for the safe disposal of their products, and are obliged to ensure all products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner themselves or sign up with a government-approved waste-handling firm to do it on their behalf.

These countries are acting to curtail the export of these deadly toxic chemicals into our country, and we are doing nothing about it as a country.
In an interview I had with a former deputy Minister of Environment and Rural Development, he told me specifically that there is no e-waste dumping in Ghana.

The Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done little so far. The agency is either under-staffed or poorly resourced. The EPA told the media in April 2008 that it was setting up a committee to draft policy for handling and managing e-waste in Ghana, but nothing has happened since the announcement was made.

Each time I have called the EPA for information on the subject, they had asked me to travel to their offices before they could talk to me. This attitude simply makes nonsense of the importance of the telephone and the need to cut down on the cost of doing business.

Meanwhile, CEOs of multi-nationals and other public officials in other parts of the world would speak on the phone and answer questions on their activities.

Some Ghanaian officials would not respond to your requests for an interview even after you have fulfilled their request to send your questionnaire in advance. For months, you would not even get the courtesy of a call or an appointment.

The press office of the UK Environment Agency has been responding to my queries. An official, Scarlett Elworthy has told me the UK government is investigating specifically the dumping of e-waste in Ghana.

Our country and our people are at great risk of the dangers that e-waste poses, but there is official inaction to deal with the problem.

I formed a group on Facebook, Ghanaians Against Dumping of E-waste. Even though membership of the group is growing, most who have signed on are Ghanaians living abroad. Not many Ghanaians living at home have signed on, even though, there are lots of Ghanaians at home on Facebook.

I am doing my part, but I can’t do it all. I would however, continue to do what I have to do.

It is however time for us as a country to take decisive action to deal with this issue once and for all. Because our environment and people are in grave danger of being exposed to the cocktail of toxic chemicals that e-waste emits into the system.

The time to act is now!

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Email: edogbevi@hotmail.com

Article printed from Ghana Business News: http://ghanabusinessnews.com


Thanks to Jenn Barb for the reference:

(XIN) China issues regulation on disposal of waste electrical

and electronic equipment BEIJING, Mar 04, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- China's State Council, or Cabinet, announced Wednesday a regulation, signed by Premier Wen Jiabao, on the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment, in a bid to promote recycling, environmental protection and safeguard human health.
Treatment will be done only by treatment firms, which get a license from local governments, said the regulation which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.
A fund, paid for by domestic producers and sellers of imported electrical and electronic equipment, will offer subsidies for treatment.
The regulation outlines the government's backing for scientific research and technology development on disposal as well as the use of new equipment and technology. It also bans the use of out-dated treatment methods for waste equipment.
Since 2003, more than five million TV sets, four million fridges, six million washing machines and five million computers have needed treatment each year, said the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.


March 4, 2009 10:01 AM PST
How best to make digital gadgets greener?
by Martin LaMonica

NEW YORK--There's a long way to go to make consumer electronics an environmentally sustainable industry and sometimes the best path isn't always clear.

Panelists and attendees at the Greener Gadgets conference here last week discussed the many ways that manufacturers could claim a greener product--a recycling program, less hazardous materials, and, increasingly, the embedded carbon footprint.

But to manufacturers--and the consumers themselves--what constitutes "green" is still a work in progress.

"I think that people are more focused on doing the right thing but there is very little for them to hang that on," said Ken Rother, the president and chief operating officer of environmental consumer Web site Treehugger.

Rother said that many Treehugger readers appear particularly concerned with carbon emissions so they would welcome standard ways to report how much energy use is embedded in a product.

But it's difficult to measure that carbon footprint in electronics cost effectively because the consumer electronics industry has a complex supply chain with multiple tiers of suppliers, said Aaron Dallek, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Planet Metrics, which makes software to help businesses measure their carbon emissions.

"The big question is how do companies approach this because...the ability to measure products' (carbon footprint) is not very good," Dallek said. However, it is clear is that designing products with fewer parts and materials reduces the embedded energy content, he said.

Click on the image to see a photo gallery of the 2008 Greener Gadgets conference.
(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)

Representatives from different companies said that many decisions made in the name of environmental sustainability, such as reducing materials and packaging, reduce carbon emissions and save money.

For example, excessive plastic packaging for a small USB key simply adds cost to the manufacturer in terms of material and the embedded energy, said Ron Gonen, the CEO of RecycleBank, which runs municipal programs to reward consumers with coupons to recycle more.

Dell's decision to use LED screens in all its laptops by next year has a number of benefits, said Michael Murphy, senior manager of environmental affairs at Dell. Because they are 43 percent more energy efficient than current screens, batteries can last twice as long. It also eliminates the use of mercury.

The thinner screens also mean less packaging and less weight--which makes it "cheaper for everyone" in Dell's supply chain, he said.

Conflicted about regulations
Greener product designs aren't only driven by cost savings, though. IT and consumer electronics companies are facing a growing number of environmental regulations, notably European recycling and hazardous material mandates called WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive).

For Intel, meeting the RoHS directive meant taking lead out of most of its chips. The company exceeded the minimum standard because it saw that it could get a "marketing advantage" that way, said Stephen Harper, director of environment and energy policy at Intel, who spoke on a panel.

"We need a combination of minimum standards and we also have to allow for competition that will drive competition beyond the minimum standards," Harper said.

At the same time, Harper and Dell's Murphy complained some regulations are ineffective. The EPEAT standard, which mandates that government agencies purchase energy-efficient computer gear, is only followed by 11 percent of agencies in their procurement practices, Harper said.

Also, regulators need to harmonize regulations across regions and do a cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis of environmental benefits when setting rules. For example, removing all lead from electronics could lead manufacturers to use equally hazardous alternatives, Harper said.

E-waste and recycling
The conference also highlighted the issue of electronics recycling as a way for manufacturers to be more environmentally responsible. But even though more than half of consumer electronics companies now offer recycling and take-back programs now, an estimated 98 percent of electronics are still not recycled.

Recycle Bank's Gonen said that society needs to attach a monetary price to waste, either through a fine or by rewarding consumers to recycle. Counting on consumers to "do the right thing" to protect the environment will keep recycling rates low, he argued.

"When you don't recycle your e-waste, there is a major environmental cost and a major economic cost," he said. "That is the way to motivate people. But first you need to give them the infrastructure, the information on how to do it."

Retailers, too, have a big role in recycling and in making the electronics industry more environmentally sustainable in general, said Parker Brugge, the vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability at the Consumer Electronics Association.

Inventor Saul Griffith calculates his carbon footprint to make the case for a green design revolution in consumer electronics.
(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)

"There is a growing, very small percentage of consumers interested in eco-friendly products. What will really drive change is when retailers demand it," he said.

The keynote speaker, inventor Saul Griffith, argued that designers need to start to make "greener electronic object d'art" or heirloom products that can last decades as a Rolex watch or Mont Blanc pen does.

Dell's Murphy argued that Dell already designs its products for long life and modular upgrades and that company already runs a large refurbishing business. But other speakers conceded that designing products that last decades would represent a completely different way of designing and selling products in high tech.

But even without heirloom products, the industry can still do quite a bit more to be greener, taking advantage of new technologies in the process, said Carl Smith, president and CEO of Rechargeable Battery Recycling.

"Green is not a yes or no question--it's an attribute," Smith said. "It's a balance between technology advancement and meeting our environmental goals."


Africa: Blueprint to Process E-Waste Developed

Naomi Antony

5 March 2009

Concerns over mounting electronic waste in Africa have led to the development of a framework to help the continent deal with the problem.

E-waste - unwanted electronic goods such as computers and mobile phones - needs to be disposed of or recycled carefully to avoid health problems and environmental contamination from component toxic materials such as lead and mercury.

In some African countries there have been fears that the use of electronics is rising with no parallel increase in safe disposal methods.

A team of organisations - which began investigating e-waste in Africa in 2007 (see Hewlett Packard to aid Africa's e-waste battle) - reported last month that the scenario varies widely from country to country.

Morocco, for example, produces 13,500 tonnes of e-waste per year from computers alone, whereas this figure is around 3,000 tonnes in Kenya, according to research by the group, which includes the Global Digital Solidarity Fund, the Swiss Institute for Material Science (Empa) and computer company Hewlett-Packard (HP).

They said that these figures could double or triple as a result of strong growth in the ICT sector.

The group also initiated a pilot scheme establishing a local, self-sustainable e-waste recycling facility in Cape Town, South Africa. Started in 2008, the facility has so far processed around 60 tonnes of e-waste, generating an income of US$14,000 and creating direct employment for 19 people.

"The Cape Town Pilot is a local decentralised first-step recycling solution that can be used as a model for other African countries," said Mathias Schluep, project manager for sustainable technology cooperation at Empa, at a press briefing (17 February).

"We now know how to approach a country [tackling e-waste] at the beginning to find out what solution we can come up with, how to get the right information."

Kirsty McIntyre, HP's environmental compliance manager, said the project is intended to make sure that e-waste processing is done in an environmentally sound manner that protects the health and safety of workers.

The group has now put together a series of recommendations for dealing with e-waste, though it emphasises that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the global problem.

"What we're looking for are regional solutions," McIntyre told SciDev.Net. "It's very difficult to get across how long it takes to do this kind of work. There are pockets of academic work on e-waste, but nobody has ever pulled it all together."

The second phase of the project seeks to engage government and corporate partners to extend e-waste management programmes to other African countries, eventually reaching the entire continent.


Monday, March 2, 2009


Jack Bauer saves the world again: 24 goes carbon neutral

* Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
* The Guardian, Tuesday 3 March 2009
* larger | smaller
* Article history

Jack Bauer, hero of the TV series 24, may have it in for terrorists but he just loves the planet. According to Fox, makers of the long-running espionage series, the programme is about to become the first "carbon neutral" TV series.

The programme's makers have cut down on its prime polluter, fuel used for on-set generators, transport and special effects.

But if the thought of Bauer chasing the bad guys at sober speeds in an environmentally responsible hybrid vehicle does not set the pulse racing, fans of the show need not fear. The thrills and spills diet of car chases, explosions and torture will not be toned down, it will be offset.

For while Fox intends to reduce the environmental impact of the show through changes to its working practices, it will also purchase carbon offsets from wind-power plants in India.

"If we've needed a car chase, we've had a car chase," Howard Gordon, executive producer of 24, told the New York Times. "Our obligation is first and foremost to the fans. If we have budget cuts and need to save money, then we'll have fewer car crashes."

Gordon denied that the greening of Bauer had anything to do with currying favour with the show's liberal critics.

"People continue to ascribe political agendas to the show, so they may see this cynically, but, no, absolutely, one has nothing to do with the other," he said.

Yet while Bauer and his cohorts stride forcefully into the green future, the real US government is finding it more difficult to achieve its aims. The US House of Representatives has announced that it is scrapping its intention to make its offices carbon neutral. The plan, part of the Green the Capitol initiative, also depended on the purchase of carbon offsets.

While the result of Fox's efforts on 24 may appeal to liberal critics, the method is controversial. Offsets have been criticised for allowing a polluter to merely buy credit without having to change its behaviour.

Fox is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which last year set itself the challenge of becoming carbon neutral by 2010. Other TV companies also intend to reduce their carbon footprint. Warner Bros and Disney both have environmental divisions, while NBC Universal plans to "green" three of its TV shows, including Saturday Night Live.


City of Atlanta to sponsor Electronic Waste Day 2009

ATLANTA (March 2, 2009) – The City of Atlanta will host an Electronic Waste Recycling Day Saturday, April 18 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Turner Field’s Blue Lot.

Residents are encouraged to bring their old computers and household electronics to be recycled.

This is the seventh year the City of Atlanta has sponsored e-waste recycling. In 2008, more than 1,000 items including computers, cell phones, stereos, televisions and other electronics were recycled.

Electronics account for up to five percent of landfill volume and contributes up to 70 percent of the toxins found in landfills because every year newer and better products are being sold to consumers.

The goal of Electronic Waste Recycling Day is to promote the recovery, reuse, and recycling of obsolete electronic equipment and to encourage the design, manufacture, and purchase of environmentally responsible electronic equipment.

The E-Waste Recycling Day is sponsored by Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith; Keep Atlanta Beautiful; Turner Field; Advanced Disposal; Dream Sanitation; Atlanta Recycling Solutions, LLC.; the Atlanta Department of Public Works; and Best Buy.

The following items will be accepted at the city of Atlanta’s E-Waste Recycling Day:

* TELEVISIONS ($10 fee required)

The following items will not be accepted: consoles, projection televisions, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, washers, dryers, freezers, de-humidifiers or humidifiers, gas-powered equipment, tires, household trash and NON-electronic equipment.

For more information, please call Councilwoman Smith’s office at (404) 330-6039.


March 2, 2009
Car Crashes to Please Mother Nature

When a dark-colored S.U.V. raced through the streets of Washington, flipped over and burst into flames on Fox’s fast-paced action show “24” last week, viewers probably were not calculating how much carbon dioxide the explosion produced.

But executives at Fox have been paying close attention.

On Monday the network will announce that “24” is going green, becoming the first “carbon neutral” television series.

Among other things, Fox says, it has hired consultants to measure the carbon-dioxide output from the production, started using 20 percent biodiesel fuel in trucks and generators, installed motion monitors in bathrooms and kitchens to make the lights more efficient and paid the higher fees that help California utilities buy wind and solar power.

Car crashes posed a bigger problem; even hybrid vehicles emit carbon dioxide when blown up. To achieve true carbon neutrality the scripts would have to avoid shooting on location and staging chase scenes, something likely to disappoint even the greenest viewers.

So the producers decided to settle for buying carbon offsets, which in theory make up for emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, by paying other people to generate enough clean energy to compensate — in this case wind-power plants in India. The producers said they bought enough credits to offset 1,291 tons of carbon dioxide, just over a half-season’s worth of emissions.

“If we’ve needed a car chase, we’ve had a car chase,” said Howard Gordon, executive producer of “24.” “Our obligation is first and foremost to the fans. If we have budget cuts and need to save money, then we’ll have fewer car crashes.”

Rupert Murdoch, spurred by a presentation by former Vice President Al Gore, said last year that he intended to make News Corporation, Fox’s parent, carbon neutral by 2010, and the network’s campaign, the producers say, is part of that effort. Still, the green fervor is an interesting turn for a show known more for playing out terrorist themes pioneered by the Bush administration and for graphic portrayals of torture in prime time.

Mr. Gordon said that he knew more skeptical viewers might see the effort as a way to rehabilitate the show’s reputation among liberals, but he insisted that there was no connection.

“People continue to ascribe political agendas to the show, so they may see this cynically, but, no, absolutely, one has nothing to do with the other,” he said.

Fox is not the first network to tout its devotion to the planet. In November NBC Universal committed to “greening” three shows, including the “Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “Saturday Night Live,” by using alternative fuels and increasing recycling and composting. Warner Brothers and Disney also have environmental divisions.

Still, Fox executives said that they were the first to make a series carbon neutral and that they hoped “24” would be a model for other shows and inspire a higher level of environmental consciousness in viewers. On Monday the network will begin broadcasting announcements in which the stars of “24” — including Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Agent Jack Bauer — encourage viewers to take steps themselves.

“No one is kidding themselves that viewers want to see Jack Bauer stop in the middle of an action scene and deliver some line about the environment,” said Dana Walden, a chairwoman of 20th Century Fox Television, who was the force behind the carbon-neutral scheme. But, she added, Fox hoped that the result would be “a more gratifying viewing experience, even if it is at a more subconscious level.”

Figuring out how to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions on a show that often shoots on location and is known for explosion-enhanced action was not easy.

The first step was to evaluate how much of the greenhouse gas was produced, examining everything from the cars used to ferry scripts across the Los Angeles area to flights taken by actors and executives. Two categories accounted for 95 percent of emissions: fuel for on-site generators, transportation and special effects; and the electricity used for sets and offices.

The cast, crew and contractors all made substantial adjustments. They shared scripts electronically and drove around in hybrid vehicles, eliminating the use of 1,300 gallons of gasoline, according to the network.

Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com, which advises businesses and evaluates the effectiveness of environmental measures, said he was impressed with the show’s efforts.

“These are not just feel-good measures,” Mr. Makower said. “They did their homework.”

Still, by the show’s own accounting, the realities of production often limited what could be done. Although 1,300 gallons of gas represents about 10 cross-country car trips, Fox said, it is not much for a show that goes through at least 1,000 gallons a week. (For other series Fox said it was experimenting with hybrid five-ton semi trucks.)

The effect of carbon offsets is hard to evaluate. It can be difficult to track whether the clean energy that is supposed to make up the debt is actually produced. And although it is possible to replace the hot, energy-consuming floodlights that studios use with lights using compact-fluorescent technology, the quality of the light “is not yet up to exacting production standards,” said Mike Posey, Fox’s associate director in charge of the green initiative.

Mr. Gordon said there was still reason to try. “We are arguably the worst possible offender, which is why, in a way, it made sense to start with us,” he said. “If we can do it, anyone can.”