The Computer Sciences Corporation’s (CSC) latest report assessing and measuring the energy implications of applied IT has downplayed the industry’s focus on energy efficiency and highlighted the growing problem of electronic waste (e-waste).
The Green IT community has commonly held the view that improving the energy efficiency of IT equipment should be the focus, but the CSC’s recent findings indicate that total energy consumption by IT hardware is overshadowed by the environmental impact caused by growing piles of e-waste.
“The disposal of electronic devices is a growing issue, as is the demand for the latest and greatest model,” Fujitsu Global Executive Director of Sustainability, Alison Rowe, said.
“Solutions will require collaboration between industry and government to develop the solutions and legislation to enact change.”
Multinational computer hardware and IT services companies such as Fujitsu are already combating the growing threat of e-waste through their participation in the Byteback eWaste recycling program in Victoria, which includes partners such as Dell and Canon.
“We have been involved with the Byteback Victoria scheme since 2007,” a Dell spokesperson said. “Dell considers e-waste an important environmental issue and we were actually the first computer manufacturer to offer free recycling in Australia.”
Byteback was started as a pilot program in Victoria and has provided corporations with a valuable insight on how to run a national program not just for recycling IT equipment, but televisions as well.
“Canon Australia acknowledges the importance of achieving an effective and efficient national collection and recycling scheme for all end-of-life televisions and computers,” Quality Safety and Environment Manager, Janet Leslie, said.
“Through the Australian Information Industry Association [AIIA], it has been actively engaged with Federal Government and TV industry in developing the draft legislation for a National Television and Computer Product Stewardship Scheme due to commence this year.”
One of the worrying trends highlighted in CSC’s report was that much of e-waste is either illegally or unethically unloaded into the developing world.
“While Australia has ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal that stops e-waste going to developing countries, some countries still need to ratify it,” AIIA National Policy and Program Manager of Sustainability, Josh Millen, said. “For example, the US has signed it but not ratified it.”
While CSC’s report predominantly focused on the issues caused by e-waste, Frost & Sullivan Vice-President of ICT Research, APAC, Andrew Milroy, still wonders how energy-neutral the IT industry really is in terms of its consumption and savings.
“Given the huge amount of waste generated by the IT industry, I would like to understand how it can be described as neutral,” he said. “There is still a lot of embodied energy used in the production of IT products and services.”
For more information about CSC’s study, go here.