How to easily reduce climate change – Guide

The lifecycle of a smartphone starts in mines around the world. There, raw materials and rare earth metals are extracted from the planet in an energy-intensive process. These materials are transported to factories where they are refined, often using high temperatures and significant energy, and turned into components such as batteries, wires, logic boards and motors. The components are then transferred by fossil fuel-powered vehicles to even more factories to be assembled into complete devices, before being shipped to consumers around the world. Although this manufacturing process is costly for the environment, it is only made worse by the speed with which most consumers dispose of their products. phones. Manufacturers have made it difficult to fix the devices, and replacing them is often an easier and less expensive solution for consumers, further contributing to the already dire climate crisis. “The greenest smartphone is the one you already own,” said Cole Stratton, an associate instructor at Indiana University Bloomington, who has studied technology supply chains. “Smartphones seem so small and inconsequential, so unless you’ve studied supply chains and figured out everything that goes into creation [them], you really have no idea how devastating these things are for the environment.” Repair right advocates, including Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak, are calling for laws requiring device manufacturers to release the tools, parts and repair manuals needed to allow consumers to have their products repaired by independent retailers – or to do it themselves. If consumers could repair devices more easily, advocates say, they wouldn’t have to replace them as often, reducing reliance on the resource-intensive production process and cutting down on e-waste. And it’s not just about smartphones: the right repair can make it easier to fix everything from tablets to tractors. Regulators are starting to notice. US President Joe Biden recently instructed the Federal Trade Commission to issue rules that prevent manufacturers from imposing restrictions that make it difficult to repair devices. A week later, the FTC pledged to investigate repair restrictions that may be illegal under federal antitrust and consumer protection laws. European regulators, meanwhile, were at the forefront of the right to fix, implementing rules earlier this year that require manufacturers of devices like washing machines and TV monitors to make parts and repair manuals available to third parties for repairs. Right-to-fix advocates hope that the recent regulatory attention will be the necessary impetus to finally put pressure on manufacturers to make repairs more affordable. For the weather, the boost can’t come anytime soon. Scientists worldwide concluded in August that it is “unambiguous” that humans caused the climate crisis and confirmed that widespread and irreversible changes have already taken place. “If we can’t fix our stuff, the consequences are that we throw a lot more away,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Fixes Association, a coalition fighting for the right to fix, told CNN. “We can’t handle the volume anymore… We’re swimming in products we can’t recycle anymore.”

The production problem

The consumer electronics supply chain is global and complex, making it difficult to quantify the full scope of its environmental impact, experts say. But the data that some companies make public can help to paint the picture: with the iPhone 13, for example, 81% of the 64 kilograms of carbon emissions generated by a single device come only from the production process, before being transported to the factories. shelves, second to Apple. On an individual scale, that’s not much; it’s about the same as a 130-mile car journey from Los Angeles to San Diego. But multiply that by the hundreds of millions of iPhones sold each year and add up quickly. Then apply a similar calculation to countless other personal devices we use every day – laptops, desktops, tablets, smart watches, smart speakers, smart headphones, and so on – and you start to get a sense of the carbon footprint of manufacturing new consumer electronics. “Everything that happens before the device gets to you is material and energy intensive – it’s where the most greenhouse gases are emitted and where the most violent ecological transformation takes place,” said Stratton. Some device manufacturers have been working to increase the use of more sustainable materials in production. Apple, for example, highlighted at its recent product launch event the recycled aluminum and other repurposed components used in its new devices, and HP (HPQ) talked about the use of plastics that could end up up in the ocean to build laptops. Still, making a consumer electronics device requires the use of non-renewable metals from rare earths that consume a lot of resources to mine and refine and that cannot easily be replaced by other components, according to Stratton. Europium and Terbium, for example, are needed to make high-definition screens; zinc and tin help make surfaces sensitive to touch; and lithium is used in batteries – just to name a few. Even with advances in sustainable materials, not making a new device is still the greenest option, Stratton said.

The case of the right to repair

Many major device manufacturers have designed products in a way that makes them difficult to repair without specialized equipment and instructions, and have limited authorized repair shops where customers can access such repairs without compromising their device warranty. This has become increasingly true in recent years. Recent design updates from manufacturers include the use of glue instead of screws, which can make a device smaller and lighter, but also make it more difficult to disassemble and reassemble. Apple did not respond to a request for comment for this story. During a Congressional Judiciary Committee hearing in 2019, Apple said it controlled the repair process with respect to safety and reliability issues. Device makers also say repair restrictions help protect trade secrets and consumer privacy. But the restrictions could also turn a profit if consumers are forced to take their broken devices to licensed stores, said Gartner analyst Aapo Markkanen. And it will increase sales if consumers need to replace their devices every few years. “We’ve always had the right to fix our stuff because we paid for it, but we just lost it as a partnership,” Gordon-Byrne said. Advocates say these restrictions deprive the public of their right to do what they want with the products they own and hurt small repair companies who could be helping to preserve more aging devices if they could access the right resources. Tech Dump is an electronics recycling facility in Minnesota that also repairs and resells old devices through its store, Tech Discounts. It processes between 3 million and 4 million pounds of electronics each year, but it can only repair and resell about 10% of the devices it uses. “We have brilliant technicians and our team discovered how to fix things without needing the manufacturer’s repair manual,” Tech Dump CEO Amanda LaGrange told CNN. “We could scale a lot faster, we could fix a lot more, if we could access repair parts and repair manuals cost-effectively.”

The end of a product’s life cycle is also worrying for the environment. Manufacturers who argue against the right to repair often say that recycling outweighs the need to regularly replace devices. But experts say it’s not that simple. In 2016, Jim Puckett, founder and CEO of Basel Action Network, a Seattle-based e-waste surveillance group, visited Hong Kong as part of a global investigation looking at the end-of-life phase of devices. Puckett and a team tried to follow the geolocation tracking devices his organization and experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had placed on 200 computers, printers, TVs and other devices. The team left them at recyclers and donation centers in the United States, which, he said, call themselves “ecologically correct” and “sustainable” and have “strict export control” to developing countries. But Puckett’s team found that about a third of the electronics they tracked ended up up overseas, in places like Pakistan, Thailand, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Kenya, with 87% of these devices landing in Asia, mostly in rural Hong Kong. When Puckett and his team arrived at one of their first destinations in Hong Kong — which they found using the GPS coordinates on the device’s trackers — he said he found employees carelessly dismantling e-waste. Workers have broken parts like fluorescent lights used for flat-panel TVs or monitors; once damaged, these devices release invisible mercury vapor that is toxic to public health and the environment. “Chasing the end of life of electronics is really disheartening,” Puckett told CNN. “At the final of the entire cycle, there can be real horror shows.” Even recyclers who responsibly process waste say the procedure can be difficult because consumer electronics can contain metals and toxic chemicals and plastics that are expensive to process, according to LaGrange. Repair advocates say both consumers and businesses should take a broader view of how we handle devices from start to finish. Manufacturers, in particular, must consider the harm that devices and their components can do to the environment when discarded, Puckett said. “You have to eliminate toxicity and design things to last a long time from the start,” Puckett said. The total mass of e-waste is decreasing as devices get smaller, according to a 2020 Yale study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. But experts fear that with the oncoming “internet of things” revolution – where everything from watches to refrigerators are becoming consumer electronics devices – the amount of waste may decrease up. “The Internet of Things is scary for everyone in my work because we’re just seeing piles and piles of junk mail coming in,” said LaGrange, who has advocated the right to fix for nearly seven years. “The fact that we’re still having this conversation is surprising,” she said. “What was encouraging about President Biden’s work … is that we’ve known fixes have been important for years, they’ve been useful for people, for our planet, for local jobs, for all things digital equity. So there was something really encouraging about being seen. But at the same time, there are still many restrictions. ”

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