ITGS Syllabus

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Topic 3

Environmental issues related to the disposal of obsolete hardware and computer supplies by Roger Maue

1. What are the issues associated with this subject?

There are issues that concern the computer’s parts or components which caused a certain amount of pollution or environmental effect when manufactured. Such a component is the hard polymer or metal cover that protects the computer chips, computer boards, computer systems, etc. When computer components are manufactured, it is first extracted as a natural mineral which when discovered in huge quantities can lead to cutting down of forests or other natural surroundings which affects the natural habitat. It is then taken to be processed then delivered to be chemically tested using hundreds of chemicals (many toxic, complex, and changing-mix) to a certain durability which if not controlled the gaseous mix can leak into the atmosphere can cause air pollution. Or simply the land needed to build a factory to produce the components can lead to more destruction of land which supports a large ecosystem.

2. How did this technology emerge?

The problems emerged when manufacturers first started to develop large scale production of computers once the technology to build cheaper computers emerged and also the ability of the average consumer to purchase it increased too. Thus it was set that the consumers were willing and able to buy the product which was supplied by the manufacturers who could produce it in large scale due to efficient, fast, low-cost, and innovative ways to produce the computers. But the environmental issues that could arise from it was not at first noticed by them until later on when the dots were finally connected that the manufacturing methods or materials or what was done to extract, create, and finally the later disposal of the used product in a environmentally safe storage place.

3. Who are the stakeholders?

The people most related and take blame are the companies who during its early years thought of this technological and profitable breakthrough as a new page in technological history which they saw and probably thought of it as excellent way to change the world and also to boost our understanding of computers and its help to society in helping building it up. It must have been good and very profitable to have the computers out on sale to the masses that could purchase it. But they didn’t realize that the emissions from the factory or the product’s certain materials could have environmental effects and eventually they could be at stake as one of the main causes of these problems since they were mainly the ones to blame since they had initiated the computing manufacturing industry.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages for those stake holders?

The advantage for the stakeholders is that they can say that the during those times they didn’t know the side effects of manufacturing the components of the computer and the process in creating them involved a lot of destruction or causes to environmental problems. They could argue that the technology or knowledge that could have helped detect the side effects were not in existence or that their equipment weren’t environmentally safe.

But the disadvantage for the stakeholders is that they will have to plead guilty to not conducting further research on what kind of side effects their manufacturing of the components could have. Also they could be accused of merely focused on the profit side of things that they didn’t look into the side effects or that they didn’t want to let the consumer know in fear of a rejection of their product. It could be possible that the cost of making adjustments to make improvements to their product could cost a lot so they could face a lot of disadvantages and be in a lot of trouble.

5. What solutions can overcome the problem?

The solution to overcoming or solving the problem could be easier because of the technological advance in helping solving environmental problems and our knowledge and expertise has grown. It could be solved step by step or all at once simply by starting with the manufacturing site which can be solved by using old unused work areas that are far from the environment, reselling or upgrading computers to save energy, better extraction of natural resources by experts and better instruction of future disposal of the product and improved manufacturing ways and better research, extending the lifespan of computers to reduce environmental effects, banning of extremely toxic substances and proper use by the consumers.

6. What areas of impact does it affect?

Even though it is not regarded as a major problem when the computing world is discussed, it still stands a problem that affects many sectors of society because it can cause problems economically for when companies try to cut costs of production many people can lose their jobs for now it is a major multi-billion dollar industry employing thousands of workers so their cut could mean drop in the economy which can lead to other problems. It can also benefit other sectors such as the environment which is key issue that is worked to improve by computer manufacturing companies.

7. Evaluate the impact locally and globally.

There is always an impact it will have both locally and globally because the computing world is right now a key part in today’s world for it helps shape and make the world change so for ex: if IBM has one of its manufacturing units shut down for manufacturing a certain component of the computer such as computer chips as outdated by a newer chip then IBM will let its branch in China at a certain similar manufacturing unit to shut down for their current product is outdated. Locally and globally the economy can suffer for loss in jobs for the IBM employers and also the consumers.

8. What are the ethical issues?

The ethical issues are that it there is great harm caused by the manufacturing companies to the environment that activists would probably say that the environment provided the materials and then they are polluting in return and that other innocent citizens of the world could suffer from the side effects in the environment besides humans which include the animals. It is very sad that this effect on the environment could endanger certain venerable animals and in some cases humans too.

9. Who is responsible?

To an extent the average computer owner or future one is to be blamed because it is through them that they bought the computer in the first place in his/her own choosing and reason that they have made it clear that there is a demand or that another of the computer units has been sold. But also to the ignorant distributors of the product who didn’t consider the side effects or try to at least provide inputs or precautionary knowledge to their customers.

10. Who is accountable?

The individuals that can be held accountable are the manufacturing companies and its management who were probably for not responsible for not letting the general public or its customers know of what their product was capable of environmentally causing side effects and it was them who manufactured the product and should know its pros and cons and let the public know of it or at least make it clear of what it do.

11. What laws apply?

The companies found guilty could face the court by Department of Forestry, Greenpeace, etc. or other organizations or individuals or groups that are affected. There are laws which govern the companies’ esp. on their output on environmental emissions or other forms or environmental harmful wastes that there are regulations, procedures, and guidelines that mistakes are criticized and punished. The laws are subdivided into specific branches such as aerial pollution, land pollution, and water pollution and so forth.

12. Are there alternative decisions?

Other methods that could be taken to improve the problem is that governments could increase the tax system on price tags, smoothen transfer of software licenses with used equipment, and setting up free blue book for used computers. While the distributors could ask the firms for not only price and quality, but also environmental performance and they could with the firms to start incentives to set up collection/resell divisions for old computers and its components for proper professional disposal.

13. What are the consequences of these decisions?

Governments would not want to increase taxes for it could be the county’s main economic provider and other methods will be unlikely to be passed out by the government or it might simply cost extra money which the government wouldn’t want to spend. It might take a long time to get off and work effectively and people won’t want to be taxed or it could be that the consumers might cause the firms to demand a change on the order by the government for it is losing a lot of money so it could cut workers and cause an economic shortage on jobs. Or skilled workers could leave the country to make a better living overseas so the human skill could be on a shortage.

22 Comments - Show Original Post Collapse comments

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November 21, 2006 7:38 PM

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November 21, 2006 7:52 PM

Sujit_George said...

You keep on saying stakeholder. Maybe you should use some other word than stakeholder because for some reason it sounds strange.

November 27, 2006 7:14 PM

Lanky Wanky said...

Isnt there nothing you can do to solve the polluting issue?? in my opinion, there isnt anything you can do to stop it since almost every home in a modern country has a cut down the production of that is like putting the country's economy into depression..well i dont know anything about economy so i cant say anything...but isnt that how it works??

November 27, 2006 7:31 PM

chirag said...

Regarding the environmental issues, i don't really think the Computer industries pollute the environment as much as some other industries do... Its like the keyboard is made up of some synthetic plastic and the manufacture company that manufactures that plastic is responsible not the computer company....

November 28, 2006 5:14 AM

akirajackson said...

im not really sure computer parts cause as much pollution compared to other industries like car manufacturing and would be really hard to decrease pollution.

November 28, 2006 6:35 AM

Dhruv Rajashekaran said...

very good explanation of the environmental issues. I agree with Chirag, I dont think the computer industry pollutes as much as say the heavy industries. some more statistics would be useful.

November 28, 2006 7:26 PM

Vaibhav said...

Well thought and well explained,but I still think production of computer components dont cause as much damage in quantity as compared to other industries. The reason why i believe this is as almost all the major computer components can be reused and are usually used to produce updated material.

November 29, 2006 1:43 AM

Tommy Chuang said...

The problem with your solution of using old unused work areas that are far from the environment is that there simply are no work areas that are far from the environment. The environment is everywhere, and no matter what you do, it's impossible to escape.

November 29, 2006 7:20 PM

Simon Ruiz said...

The comparison between heavy industry and computer industry involves a whole new surface to ethical issues and could not be related with technological involvement with hardwares. And as Dhruv states, some reliable statistics could have supported your claim stronger.

December 03, 2006 7:25 PM

akirajackson21 said...

to decrease pollution they would need to decrease the production of computers but because it is a growing industry it would be extremely hard. It is pretty much impossible to decrease pollution concerning computers.

December 05, 2006 7:33 PM

moyer said...

I guess the real problem is not about the mass producing of computer components, rather the emmisions produced from the other non-computer producing factories. I agree with what you wrote.

December 07, 2006 7:21 PM

Joseph Toyoshima said...

Even though we both had the same topic you gave a different input on the subject. It was very well divided and explained. The only thing that was a bit vague was your comparison between heavy industy and computers. What do you mean by heavy industry and how much more and what kind of pollution?

December 11, 2006 6:07 AM

ronniewonnie said...

A very well thought out essay.
You and Joseph Toyoshima had the same topic to write on but completely different ideas on the issue.
However, i dont get how computer parts can cause pollution to the enviroment. Maybe you want to elaborate on that and explain it more clearly.
Ronald Chu

December 11, 2006 6:58 AM

HeeJun Son said...

Although the production of computer components causes the pollution, cars and industries cause more pollutions that that of computer components producers polluting the environment. And there can be more solutions regarding waiting for better technology. For instance, if government feels that it should reduce amount of computer components to prevent pollution, it can impose tax.

December 11, 2006 6:59 PM

kenth said...

It was very well divided and explained. I see the environmental effect of the pollution of computer components and parts. Yet I do think that other heavy industries have worse pollution.

December 11, 2006 9:43 PM

Chun said...

This essay is well written and I agree with Roger's points. This production of computer components is a trade off between the efficiency and environment. IF we choose to lessen the production, it will harm all over the world because computer takes a huge part of the daily life. But if we choose to save the computer efficiency the environment would be harmed.

December 14, 2006 4:14 AM

aditya kumar said...

You said that factories manufacturing computers contribute heavily to pollution. I'm not sure why because logically something like a car factory or an aircraft factory(everett), takes more space and probably required more cutting down of trees. You might me right but it would help if you elaborate and used statistics to assist your argument.
- Aditya Kumar

December 15, 2006 5:02 AM

moyer said...

I agree that computer industries do pollute the environment. But you dont want to tax the industry or to increase the input costs for computers too much because that will decrease output. I think computers are important items in the society so some pollution is inevitable.

December 17, 2006 3:22 AM

faghunter said...

"I'm not sure why because logically something like a car factory or an aircraft factory(everett), takes more space and probably required more cutting down of trees."
I agree with this comment.

December 17, 2006 7:01 AM

matwilder said...

The inherent problem you are trying to pose in your essay seems to me as rather a typical issue associated with the mass production of any product in the modern age. There doesnt necessarily seem to be a specific issue that correlates to the production of just computers.

December 18, 2006 3:03 AM

matwilder said...

Increasing taxes wouldnt be much of an alternative decision, considering that almost all products in the world have some kind of production tax. An increase in tax would not cut down in the output of computers as you may think because computers are mass produced; the intrinsic value of a computer is extremely low. It is rather the price of development and research that makes computers costly.

December 18, 2006 3:06 AM


Blogger Juju said...

This is a very descriptive essay. Well written and the parts were put together well. I have learned that even in the productions of computers, an everyday component of many people, also creates pollution. I also did not know that the pollution could be so harmful. thanks Roger

January 07, 2007 6:16 PM  
Blogger Wonbae said...

There were always pros and cons to every technological advances as far as I know. Without the Industrial revolution how could we have ever known the potential labor force existing within machines? There can be no progress without certain sacrifices or consequences. By using coal rather than timber or peat, human beings were able to harness the things that we take for granted such as trains which was an undeniable revolution to transportation. But such actions increased carbon emissions and so forth. Now we are debating whether or not we should concern for the environment. I believe that progress is important for the short run, but if we "run" out of environment there is no way we are going to bring it back. We must preserve the environment not from progress, but to generate progress in the future.

August 27, 2007 8:54 PM  

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