It Technology

.. because it is in a soluble form (primarily lead oxide) that can leach 15, while the lead contained in the glass funnel and in the faceplate is in an insoluble form. Cadmium Cadmium is present in certain components, including chip resistors, infrared detectors, semiconductors, older CRTs and is sometimes present in plastics as a stabilizer. Cadmium represents approximately 0.009% of a PC by weight 16. Based on the total number of disposed PC’s in Canada in 2000, this translates to 2.0 tons of cadmium.

Based on the prediction that 47,821 tones of PCs and monitors will be disposed in 2005 and assuming that the average composition of this equipment will not change significantly by that year, 4.5 tons of cadmium will be disposed with this stream in 2005. Mercury Mercury is used in printed circuit boards, batteries, switches and printed wiring boards. While the percentage found in the average PC is only 0.002%, 17 based on the total number of disposed PCs estimated in Canada in 2000, this represents 0.5 tons of mercury. Mercury is also found in the fluorescent lamps that were previously used to backlight laptop computer screens, but have now been replaced with xenon. Based on the prediction that 47,821 tons of PCs and monitors will be disposed in 2005 and assuming that the average composition of this equipment will not change significantly by that year, 1.1 tons of mercury will be disposed with this stream in 2005. Brominated Flame Retardants Brominated flame retardants are used to reduce the flammability of plastics in electronic products. They are most typically used in circuit boards, connectors, plastic covers and cables 18. There are many types of BFRs (more than 60), some of which are more toxic than others. The European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has chosen to focus its efforts on the two classes of BFRs that pose the highest cause for concern, that is, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).

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These are the compounds that are most likely to form dioxins and furans during the incineration process. When these compounds are burned, brominated materials are converted into polybrominated dibenzo furans (PBDF) and polybrominated dibenzo dioxins (PBDD) and can be released into the atmosphere.19 Therefore, when plastics containing BFRs, in particular PBB and PBDE, are extruded during the recycling process or when they are incinerated for disposal, hazardous compounds may be released into the environment. Polyvinyl Chloride Plastic (PVC) Although most computer moldings are now made using ABS plastic, PVC has been widely used in computer cabling and housings. There is a risk that dioxins and furans will be formed when PVC is incinerated. In addition, PVC is a difficult plastic to recycle if mixed with styrenics and contaminates other plastics (e.g., PET) in the recycling process. 5.0 IT Equipment Design Changes to Reduce Toxicity and Facilitate Recycling Many manufactures are attempting to eliminate substances of concern from their products, including, lead, arsenic, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury and PVC.

Examples are provided below. Hewlett-Packard’s Office Jet 500 multi-purpose printer uses a metal chassis and power supply enclosure to eliminate the need for flame retardants and light emitting diodes (LED’s) instead of a mercury lamp for the scanner, and eliminates the need for batteries by using flash memory technology. The primary plastic resin used in Intel’s PCs and servers (ABS and polycarbonate) does not use flame retardants that contain PBBs or PBDEs. None of their products contain asbestos, or include lead or cadmium as plastic additives. 20 Philips Consumer Electronics evaluate all of its products against their list of banned substances (asbestos, cadmium, mercury, CFC/HCFC, PCP, PCB, PCT, PBB/PBBE) before their introduction.

21 Motorola conducts research with their suppliers of printed wiring board laminates, plastics, and electronic components to replace lead and BFRs. 22 Panasonic has identified 37 substances of concern in their manufacturing process with 13 targeted for elimination and the remaining 24 for reduction. 23 Sony Corporation is developing a non-lead based solder for some products and seeks to eliminate dioxin forming compounds through design guidelines. 24 Toshiba has introduced the Satellite 2520 notebook with a halogen-free motherboard and plans to switch over to halogen-free boards for the entire PC product range by the end of 2001. 25 Digital’s (now Compaq) Corporate Regulated Material Specification includes the banning of PBBs, PBBOs and PBBEs. Numerous other halogenated compounds are listed in this specification including the 25 halogenated dioxins and furans, which are restricted by the German Dioxin Ordinance.

As a part of Sony’s Green Management 2002 Plan, they will eliminate the use of halogenated flame retardants in all European models by 2001 and in all models by 2002. Many manufacturers are improving the recyclability of their products by incorporating recyclable materials into products, by making their products easier to dismantle and by marking the various materials contained in the equipment, for example: Plastic components of Apple products that are greater than 100 grams are made from the same type of plastic material; Apple designs its product with latches, snap-in connections, and single screw types requiring no specialized tools; Hewlett Packard designs many of its products so that they are easier to take apart; many components simply snap apart, making it easier to separate metal from the plastic; IBM’s DfE (Design for the Environment) guidelines encourage the use of snap fits instead of fasteners, and where fasteners are used, they use a minimum number of standard sizes that do not require special tools when dismantling, and Intel’s product design checklist encourages ease of disassembly and appropriate materials choice. 6.0 Future Trends in IT Technology The IT sectors are converging at a rapid rate and with the development of fibre- optic networks, data, sound and video will be accessible at a rapidly expanding rate. It is challenging to predict the extent to which the future will be different to the present. This section will describe a number of trends identified through the literature review and survey carried out for this study, but will not attempt to estimate the potential impacts of these trends because of the significant uncertainty involved.

General Trends Moore’s Law, based on a 1965 prediction by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, states that processing power will double every 18 months. This has been the case since the early 1970’s and it is not expected to change even ten years from now 26. Recent advancements in wireless phone and notepad/Palm organizers have resulted in predictions of the demise of the PC. Rumors of the PC’s demise may be premature, but they aren’t necessarily exaggerated. No one can say for certain whether the PC will survive the coming onslaught of super smart alternative computing devices ranging from wireless phones to household appliances.

Such products could make the PC less essential. In short, you can expect PC to become smaller and more powerful, with thinner and lighter screens, and advances in voice recognition could ultimately make your mouse and keyboard a museum piece. But while the aging PC may undergo some cosmetic nips and tucks, it probably won’t disappear altogether – at least not in the near future. 27 There is a new trend away from PC’s to NC’s (network computers) in the workplace and for networks data to be contained on the Internet rather than on a computer based network server. This approach means that the computers on people’s desks at work will not have hard drives, which will all be located on one server. Units of hardware, such as monitors and keypads are predicted to last at least ten years, and the server will be upgraded only as needed.

This approach will significantly reduce computer system maintenance requirements. Also, from this study’s point of view, the size of equipment involved – a small desktop NC – will be considerably smaller than existing PCs, and the rate at which these units will be discarded may be slower than for current technology, thus reducing the flow of IT waste to disposal. 7.0 Technology Changes in Computer Equipment Flat panel displays (FPDs) such as plasma display panels and liquid crystal displays (LCD) offer several environmental advantages over CRTs, including reduced Weight volume, energy consumption and lead content. Lifecycle analysis and recycling of FPDs is being researched at the University of Tennessee. It should be noted that while FPDs do not contain leaded glass, they do contain levels of mercury that are comparable to fluorescent lights 28. While FPDs are currently available, they are prohibitively expensive for many users. FPDs are expected to be priced more competitively in 2003, but will still be more expensive than CRTs.

29 Many manufacturers are also attempting to design their equipment to facilitate upgrading. For example, IBM Printing Systems Company’s InfoPrint 3900/4000 printer engine has been upgraded 19 times since 1990, enabling customers to upgrade their equipment rather than dispose of it. 30 Another example of advancements in computer technology is the development of one machine with printing, faxing, scanning and copying capabilities. The development of these comprehensive machines will replace the need for four separate pieces of equipment with one, at a lower or comparable price. This may result in a significantly reduced amount of waste IT equipment at the end of its useful life.

Given the rapid technological advancements and the reducing “lag time” or lifespan of computer equipment, it will be challenging for waste management planners and policy makers to keep pace. Corporate Environmental Developments Worldwide trends in corporate environmental programs such as ISO 14001, EMS and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are beginning to impact computer manufacturers in North America. Design for the Environment (DfE) programs at IBM, Apple and Compaq are addressing issues such as eliminating brominated flame retardants (BFR) in plastics, finding alternatives to lead for circuit board solder, and labeling of plastics to aid in dismantling. 8.0 IT EQUIPMENT REUSE AND RECYCLING ACTIVITIES IN CANADA The IT equipment reuse and recycling infrastructure in Canada is far from uniform and has limited coverage. It is an immature business, with a relatively small number of companies across the country, but the numbers are growing.

It is expected that the demand for this type of service will continue to grow as increasing quantities of IT waste enter the waste stream in future years. That said, there are already a number of IT equipment waste reuse and recycling companies across Canada. Most companies try to refurbish viable IT equipment where possible, as this generates the highest revenue per unit. Units which can not be repaired, upgraded or sold, are manually dismantled by most recycling companies, who sort the IT equipment into its various components (sometimes into 40 separate categories) in order to get the highest market price for high quality material streams such as wire, circuit boards, power bars, semi-precious and base metals, etc. There are also some automated computer recycling companies that provide secure destruction services for information contained on hard drives, that also recycle component materials.

Many companies who recycle IT equipment also handle telecom equipment. 9.0 CONCLUSIONS This preliminary baseline study estimated that approximately 33,972 tons of IT waste were disposed in Canada in 2000. This number is expected to rise as IT technology continues to develop at its currently rapid pace, and IT equipment faces continuous redesign and shorter life spans. It is assumed that a significant amount of this waste is currently in storage, because people and businesses are unsure of what to do with it. Throughout Canada, both residential and commercial IT waste generators are willing to recycle or reuse this equipment, but do not know how to go about doing this. A directory of all the options available across the country would help considerably to increase recovery of this waste stream, as people are reluctant to dispose of equipment which cost a lot of money a few years ago.

The infrastructure to reuse and recycle IT waste is relatively undeveloped in Canada at this time, but is beginning to develop at a rapid pace. As an example of this growth, there were 4 companies in Western Canada until recently who dealt with the recycling of IT waste, but this number has grown to about 25 this year, with increasing need for this type of service. The Canadian infrastructure is considerably less developed than in the US, in part due to our geography and smaller population. The capacity for handling CRTs is particularly low, as it is globally. While processing capabilities are in place, industry has not expressed an interest in conducting a take-back program similar to those operating in the UK or Sweden.

IT waste presents a number of challenges because of the complex combination of materials involved (specialized plastics and precious metals). Technologies are available to effectively refurbish and recycle this equipment, therefore many options to disposal are available. Trends in the IT business include a focus on designing IT equipment to facilitate easier dismantling, and a focus on identifying options to recycle CRTs. Recycling and refurbishing of CRT’s is less developed than for other equipment. The IT business in Canada is characterized by numerous suppliers and agents, but relatively little manufacturing directly in Canada.

Any manufacturing by large IT companies is carried out in the US or overseas. A number of companies were sending a considerable amount of equipment to China. This market was closed to overseas outlets on 1 April, 2000, which may have significant impacts on a number of the companies in Canada who deal with this waste. At a future date, a complete listing of all companies and organizations in Canada who deal with IT waste should be developed, and a comprehensive survey of all of these companies should be carried out to identify their current operations and capacity and any barriers to increased recovery. Leased IT equipment is easier to recover than purchased equipment, because of the relatively limited number of suppliers involved, and the relatively easy recovery mechanism.

At this time, an estimated 75% of IT equipment in Canada is purchased rather than leased, therefore this is the predominant pathway which needs to be disaggregated as much as possible. Also, recovery options are different for IT equipment generated by households, compared to businesses, therefore at a minimum, a split between residential and commercial IT equipment owners needs to be identified. Geography.