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Product release cycles kill the environment, technicians tell British Computer Society • The Register

Ending the relentless nature of annual product launch cycles is something that should be high on the agenda for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021, also known as COP26.

At least that’s what the BCS, formerly known as the British Computer Society, says, which believes reducing e-waste is the most pressing concern for 30% of the 1,100 and more members it recently surveyed. .

Alex Bardell, president of the BCS Green IT Specialist Group, said reducing e-waste is already on the agenda thanks to the chip shortage.

“Rather than relying on new devices as soon as we break down, ‘right to repair’ legislation should start to make it easier for people to extend the life of their devices. If your car’s starter fails, you would go to the garage and get a new part, rather than throwing the car away.

“The challenge is that the business model of electronics companies is to push their products, like smartphones, on increasingly shorter time cycles in order to generate revenue and it really doesn’t have to be that way. . will to put the planet ahead of an ever tighter upgrade cycle. “

The Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment Forum said users consume 3% more hardware each year – and smartphones are a particular offender when it comes to equipment dumping.

In the United States, for example, 416,000 cell phones are thrown away every day, according to the Public Interest Research Group. Kevin O’Reilly, US nonprofit right to redress campaign manager, told us in July:

“If we could extend the lifespan [of phones], on average, in just one year, it would have the equivalent in terms of reducing carbon emissions to take 636,000 cars off the road. “

When a broken screen costs almost as much as a replacement smartphone

As discussed in these previous pages, including through various teardowns by iFixit, smartphone vendors are making design choices that ensure that repairing and reusing phones can be an unnecessary challenge. For example, Apple is blocking replacement cameras in the iPhone 12, or Samsung is using way too much glue in its Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G blower.

The UK’s environmental audit committee highlighted Apple’s case in September last year, saying the company declined to answer questions about its record on environmental sustainability and repairability of its equipment.

The chairman of the committee, the Right Honorable Sir Philip Dunne, Member of Parliament for Ludlow in Shropshire, thundered:

“With the speed at which new devices are coming to market, tech companies are pushing consumers to buy new products rather than extending the life of their existing items. It can also be very difficult to repair electronic devices with many companies, which makes it almost impossible – or if possible, very expensive – for consumers to have the opportunity to repair themselves.

“As a result, we are witnessing a society from disposables to electronics, and tech companies must take responsibility for the environmental impact this causes. A circular economy with repair and recycling at its core is crucial if we are to want to. face the climate emergency. “

According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union, titled Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, a record 53.6 million tonnes of waste electrical equipment was produced in 2019, an increase of 21% over the past five last years.

The BCS investigation highlighted that other pressing concerns for members – at least those surveyed – include carbon transparency reporting, making data centers truly green, giving employees the right to work from home to reduce their costs. carbon footprint and ‘restrict proof of work’ of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin that have a significant environmental impact.

Reducing emissions, phasing out non-polluting energies, tackling deforestation and accelerating the shift to electric vehicles are topics of discussion confirmed at the COP26 event to be held in Glasgow from October 31 to 12. November.

Tightening product release cycles on this agenda looks questionable. Salespeople should walk themselves rather than trying to appease the audience with brilliant videos that talk about the conversation.

At this month’s Canalys forum, Steinar Sønsteby, CEO of Nordic company Atea, one of Europe’s largest technology resellers, said his company’s most important contribution to sustainability is recycling. and reuse of kits.

“Take back the old equipment when you sell new, and we’re around 20%. I’m not just talking about PCs or laptops, but all the equipment. Take it back. Get products or solutions for that … Are there any materials in there that [are] limited on this Earth. “

He said his company took over 550,000 units last year. “We have customers like IKEA who want 20% of the computers they buy to be reused. [refurbished],” he said.

Atea takes back three-year-old devices and cleans them physically and digitally before reselling them. “And by the way, it’s the most profitable thing we do,” Sønsteby said. ®