Last week, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas once again provided the perfect showcase for new, cool technology. The sheer volume of technological gadgets was nearly overwhelming. The typical stuff was represented, from state-of-the-art computers, laptops, tablets, video games, TVs, and more. But that was only the tip of the iceberg, especially when you got to the 3-D food printer and dual-door washing machine (with a second washing area for smaller loads).
One trend that made us stand up and take notice was not only the advancement of new electronics, but also the integration of electronics into items that didn’t have them before. New electronics included a variety of wearable devices and the aforementioned state-of-the-art computers, laptops, and tablets. The show also featured quite a few drones, which are basically flying computers. On the integration side of things, you can look forward to a Wi-Fi coffee machine and a baby bottle that electronically monitors the level of liquid to help with correct feedings.
Although the excitement at CES was all about these new gadgets, there has not been much discussion that we’re aware of concerning the environmental impact and the disposal and recycling of these now electronic devices. And this is not just a consumer issue — as we’ve seen in the past, many of these new devices will find their way into the workplace, and may even become a part of your daily business process.
What we all should ask is if the manufacturers are designing these gadgets in such a way that will allow their electronics parts to be easily removed for upgrades or recycling. Are the whole units designed to be easy to recycle? Or has very little thought been put into this by the manufacturers? Many states now have laws requiring the recycling of electronics. So far, there’s been no indication as to whether or not these new devices fall under those laws, and it’s an important distinction to make. Will an organization like EPEAT add more of these manufacturers and electronic devices to their ratings?
At the same time that we are creating some cool new technologies and gadgets, are we creating the potential for mountains of electronics that won’t be recycled? Even with all the laws, recycling programs and recycling centers in place today, many people don’t recycle items like monitors, laptops, PCs, and cell phones or smart phones. That experience suggests that this lack of recycling is likely to continue with many of the new devices introduced at CES unless a proper recycling process is put into place.