The statistics change depending on where they come from, but researchers at Purdue University believe that the US generated approximately 3 million tons of e-waste in 2007. As more and more people retire their LCD flat screen TVs and monitors manufactured before 2009, the problem is going to get worse. Those models are backlit with cold cathode fluorescent lamps that contain mercury, making them hazardous to dispose of or incinerate. Electronics also contain toxic materials and brominated flame retardants that can leach into ground water.

Although LCD hardware can easily last 10-12 years, with technology advances and the constant release of new models of all types of electronics, people upgrade their smart phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and televisions/monitors much faster than is technically necessary. An assistant professor at the School of Mechanical Engineering and Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Fu Zhao, believes that hundreds of millions of backlighted LCDs will retire each year and that without proper treatment, these used LCDs could lead to serious damage to the environment.

The recycling industry has evolved and worked on ways to recycle these displays that don’t require incineration or shipping them overseas. The process is similar to how computers are currently handled by reputable recyclers- the LCDs are disassembled in a way that lets them recover high value components, reduce environmental hazards, and keep costs low. The monitor’s housing is removed, circuit boards and metal frames detached, and then polarizing filters, glass, liquid crystals, and the mercury are separated while the gold and indium is recovered.

Since 2010, LED backlights have replaced cold cathode fluorescent lamps in most LCD flat screens, but even though LED screens contain no toxic material, they will still be e-waste at the end of their lives. Responsible recycling practices will ensure that not only will they be disposed of properly, but precious metals will be extracted responsibly.

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Build your own Fujitsu computerIf you find yourself in Japan with a few hours to spare, stop by the Fujitsu production facilities and build your own computer. Since 2004, the company has held workshops for elementary and middle school students to teach them the ins and outs of computer assembly, but now Fujitsu is letting customers build and fully assemble their own custom PCs.

After the customers build their computers, Fujitsu has engineers examine them thoroughly, then ships them to the customers and include a three year warranty for free. Customers can even have their names engraved on the case or mouse of the machine they build. According to Fujitsu, “The service is to kick off on August 9, 2012 through the “Building my very own PC” plan undertaken jointly with travel agency T-Gate, Inc. Fujitsu intends to expand the program through the Fujitsu Open Classroom College of approximately 100 PC instruction schools operated by the Fujitsu Group nationwide.”

It’s a nice idea for those that take advantage of the opportunity to learn about PC components and repair, as well as see the various metals and plastics used in the construction. Most consumers aren’t aware of how much material goes into the production of a PC, but Fujitsu has been advancing their sustainability efforts over the last few years.

According to Fujitsu Limited President, Masami Yamamoto, “Last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and the flooding in Thailand have taught us that safety and security cannot be taken for granted. The effects of climate change and the resource depletion that the world population explosion has triggered are just some of the factors indicating that the sustainability of the planet itself is sinking into crisis…. One example of this is achieving sweeping advances in computing to simulate future generations and bring us one step closer to a prosperous future society. While providing new value, we will, at the same time, enhance the energy efficiency of ICT itself.”

You can read Fujitsu’s Sustainability Report here: http://www.fujitsu.com/global/about/environment/contents/

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Stringent new EU e-waste rules were approved by the European Parliament, starting an avalanche of change on how technology companies, retailers, recycling firms, and consumers handle their electronic waste, both in the United States and abroad. The updated Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which first came into effect in 2003, significantly strengthens a range of e-waste regulations and imposes new targets that will require member states to collect 45 percent of electronic equipment sold for approved recycling or disposal from 2016, rising to 65 percent of equipment sold or 85 percent of electronic waste generated by 2019, depending on which goal member states choose to adopt. It also introduces stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the new rules.

The original WEEE directive represented the world’s first comprehensive e-waste legislation, placing a “producer responsibility” on manufacturers that made them legally and financially responsible for the safe collection and disposal of old equipment.

The new WEEE Directive will give EU Member States the tools to fight illegal export of waste more effectively. Illegal shipments of WEEE disguised as legal shipments of used equipment, in order to circumvent EU waste treatment rules, has always been a serious problem. The new Directive will force exporters to test and provide documents on the nature of their shipments when the shipments run the risk of being waste.

A further improvement is the harmonization of national registration and reporting requirements under the Directive. Member States’ registers for producers of electrical and electronic equipment will now have to be integrated more closely. The Commission will adopt a harmonized format to be used for the supply of information.  Administrative burdens are consequently expected to decrease significantly from the current procedure.

More information about WEEE can be found here: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/waste/32084.aspx

And here: http://export.gov/europeanunion/weeerohs/index.asp

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Apple recently received some flak from the electronics recycling industry for the release of an internal memo that said, “The MacBook Pro top case assembly includes an embedded battery, keyboard, fan ducts and microphone. Batteries must be replaced with the top case assembly. The battery alone is not a replaceable part.”

This means a few things. First, it means that the glued-in battery is a problem for more than just the user who wants to replace their own battery. The second issue is that only Apple is really going to be able to service this laptop, not a local repair shop.

A third issue this creates is that of recycling. Recyclers need to be able to easily disassemble products to recycle them. Apple products have a high resale value and long lifespan, which is good news for environmentalists.  However, it’s refreshing to hear about advances in technology that could dramatically improve the ability to disassemble and recycle electronic hardware at the end of a device’s life.

Researchers at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have developed a printed circuit board that falls apart when submerged in hot water. The circuit board’s electronic components like resistors, capacitors and integrated circuits can merely be scraped off intact, which means there is no necessary delay between the recovery and the reuse of the parts.

As part of Britain’s ReUSE (Reuseable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics) project, the circuit board is made of “unzippable polymeric layers” that can stand up to the daily damp heat stress and thermal cycling of a working device, but won’t come apart until submerged in hot water at the end of its usable life. One of the best parts about this invention is that the material can be used in flat circuit boards as well as flexible and 3D configurations.

In lab tests, it was found that 90 percent of the original circuit board components could be salvaged.

To see this unzippable circuit board in action, watch the video below.

 

 

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We were lucky here. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on a lot of New York and New Jersey but our Fair Lawn, NJ headquarters remained secure and dry. We closed operations for two days since it wasn’t safe to be on the road and Governor Christie asked that we stay home.

Sandy hit the shores Monday night. It’s now Thursday and most of us still don’t have power at home. The lines to get gas are hours long and a lot of us here have started staying with friends for the heat and electricity if we weren’t part of the mandatory evacuation.

It’s funny how dependent we have become on technology. With internet services and cable TV being down in a lot of homes, our phones have become our lifeline to society and our only source of news outside of the office. That also means that wherever most people in the North East are going lately, we’re bringing our cell phone chargers in the hopes of finding a working outlet. All four of the major cell phone companies said subscribers in patches of their territories hit by the hurricane have been experiencing outages. We’ve become so socially connected through email and social media that without internet access on a computer, being without cell service seems crippling.

E-commerce up and down the East Coast came to a staggering halt as well. Distribution centers and shipping services were down and the lack of phone service, electricity, internet and flooded data centers made ordering and shipping impossible. The cleanup from the storm is likely to take several days and even potentially weeks in some areas. The cleanup from the storm is likely to take several days and even potentially weeks in some areas.

Here at AnythingIT, we hope our local customers and their employees are warm, safe and getting systems up and running.

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