Facing the Problems of Toxic Materials
In February 2003, the European Union passed the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS). The directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment, including computers. The legislation requires enforcement in every member state of the European Union. RoHS helps reduce damaging effect to people and the environment in third-world countries where much of today’s e-waste ends up.
Here are just a few of the toxic chemicals found in your average computer:
- Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in plastic casings
- Cadmium and selenium in circuit boards
- Cathode ray tubes (CRT) in old monitors
- Lead in solder
- Mercury in LCD screen backlights
Due to new research and growing public awareness about the effects of these hazardous materials, many companies are beginning to research and are finding new ways to build greener PCs that do not make use of these dangerous chemicals. Most companies have completely eliminated CRT monitors from their product line altogether, since they emit toxic radiation and can contain many toxic phosphors. Though LCD screens have taken their place, many of these also contain toxic materials.
Using Alternative and Eco-Friendly Materials to Make Computers
Computer manufacturers are finding alternative materials to make computers. These materials may be renewable, eco-friendly, or produced using less energy. Here is a list of the different materials that manufacturers are using to build computer parts.
· Bamboo – is becoming increasingly popular for making casings for computers and peripherals. It has the advantages of being a sustainable and quickly renewable resource and it is lightweight and stylish.
· Recyclable plastics – many computers are constructed from non-recyclable plastics but there is an alternative. One way is to use recyclable polycarbonate resin.
· Eco-friendly flame retardant – Flame retardants are often some of the most toxic chemicals in traditional PCs, there are flame retardant silicone compounds available that are flame retardant and completely non-toxic.
· Eliminating lead soldering – getting rid of the lead makes a big difference, it can protect individuals responsible for breaking down computer component during the recycling processes and prevent toxins leaching into the ground and water supplies at landfills and storage points.
This post is part of the series: The Future of Green Technology
Carbon-free computing is the aim of many computer manufacturers.