U.N. Study Highlights Computers’ Environmental Hazards

A U.N. study released today highlights the environmental hazards posed by the worldwide popularity of personal computers. Manufacturing the average PC requires 10 times the product’s weight in fossil fuels, says the study — compared to twice the product’s weight for cars and refrigerators. Computer manufacturing also entails heavy use of toxic chemicals. To make matters worse, the lifespan of a PC is short and getting shorter, while sales continue to boom, making for a massive disposal problem. Discarded computers are often shipped to poorly managed facilities in developing countries to be recycled, leading to toxic waste and health risks for workers. The study calls on computer manufacturers to make their products easier to upgrade and U.N. member states to encourage citizens to purchase used PCs and use them longer. Thirteen countries, mostly in Europe, have passed legislation on computer recycling. The U.S., the world’s largest PC producer, has made no moves in this direction.