CES: e-Waste and Recycling

The consumer electronics and computer businesses have become synonymous with high rates of (some say planned) obsolescence.

Over twenty US states have or are considering electronics recycling laws, so manufactures are beginning to respond. Three major players - Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba - announced at CES that they are forming the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company, LLC (MRM).

Recycling is "downstream" solution to the e-waste problem. The "upstream" solution is to rethink product design and marketing to encourage long-term use, not rapid replacement. Additional product design initiatives could reduce toxic components and make recycling easier and cheaper.

Other items of note:

Nokia is introducing a phone accessory called the Nokia Eco Sensor as a demonstration of lower-impact devices. The company says its design and construction implements the "Three Rs" of waste reduction (reduce, reuse and recycle), runs on solar power, and use reduced energy in manufacture. The company's intent is "to stimulate an ongoing discussion and idea sharing – both within the mobile industry and with consumers."

Fujitsu has been researching been researching the viability of polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic-like substance derived from biomass. Fujitsu researchers claim "PLA is biodegradable and does not generate harmful gases during combustion. Also, because it is derived from plants, it can be produced using only small amounts of fossil fuel. PLA, therefore, is a material with a low environmental burden." Fujitsu showed its laptop with a PLA shell at CES, described by some reports as a "laptop made from corn."

See the CES post on Greener Power Supplies and Batteries for more on this topic.