1 Billion PCs and counting, plus more e-junk

Two years ago, I blogged about the growing concern about e-junk: old computers, hardware and other gadgets being thrown in landfills by the tons each year. Well today, the issue remains to be of a growing concern as two stories in the Inquirer brings to mind this issue.

The first one, is about achieving a landmark, a record of some sort as the number of personal computers have, according to research firm Gartner, gone beyond one billion units being used all over the world today.

The number of personal computers in use around the world has surpassed one billion, with strong growth in emerging markets set to double the number of PCs by early 2014, research firm Gartner said on Monday.

Mature markets accounted for 58 percent of the first billion installed PCs, but would only account for about 30 percent of the next billion, Gartner said.

“Rapid penetration in emerging markets is being driven by the explosive expansion of broadband and wireless connectivity, the continuing fall in PC average selling prices, and the general realization that PCs are an indispensable tool for advancement,” George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, said.

Gartner expects more than 180 million computers will be replaced this year, with some sold to second owners through various channels, some broken up and recycled, but many simply dumped directly into landfill.

“We estimate … some 35 million PCs will be dumped into landfill with little or no regard for their toxic content,” said Gartner analyst Meike Escherich.

First it was Firefox 3 achieving a Guinness World Record, now it’s the PC. However, the last paragraph I quoted proves that it’s a good thing Firefox is a software, an intangible piece of technology so widely used today.

If it had been another physical gadget, Firefox 2 would’ve easily filled up many landfills once users have replaced them with Firefox 3. Experts say that the number of PCs would continue to grow as more households in developing countries could afford them while others continue to upgrade their existing machines. Where does the old ones go? It’s clear that more and more solutions to handling e-junk must be put in place otherwise, junk PCs could replace junk vehicles in dump sites, junk shops and landfills.

If one billion PCs are causing this much concern about waste disposal and environmental protection, how about three billion mobile phones being used world wide? That’s the focus of the second story also found in the Inquirer; old mobile phones are now becoming a health and environmental hazard.

The fate of the more than three billion of the gadgets in use today will be discussed by more than 1,000 delegates from 170 countries at the meeting on the Basel Convention in Bali, a statement said.

Delegates to the conference will discuss new guidelines for disposing of the phones, which have grown from technological obscurity into a household essential — and a major waste challenge — in a matter of years.

The conference would “consider adopting new sets of guidelines for the environmentally sound management of used and end-of-life mobile phones,” a statement from the organizers said.

“The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s to … more than three billion in April, 2008. Sooner or later these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts.”

In all my years of being alive, I’ve used only five mobile phones so far; my very first was a Siemens C-something back in 2000. The second was a Nokia 3210, handed down to me by my grandpa, which was replaced by a Nokia 3310, also handed down by him in 2004. It was in turn replaced by a Nokia 3530 and by May last 2007 it was replaced by a Sony Ericsson K800i. Each phone servicing my needs for an average of two years at the most.

Most of my friends on the other hand had a new mobile phone at least twice in half-a-year. Some even having a new one every three months! While my old phones were either lost or handed over to my other relatives, I still use that relic Nokia 3530 as a secondary phone, my friends simply threw away some of their replaced phones while the others were traded in for the new ones.

Now this is just in my circle of friends. What about the billions of other people who also use mobile phones and replace them in even faster rates? How many phones end up landfills world wide? What are we doing to minimize or eliminate their impact on our environment?

It’s fun, cool and productive to have modern tools, but why does it have to come at stiff price on our health and environment? Surely, we could do better.

2 Comments

  1. Oh, so those unused gadgets just pile up in the landfills and hope to rot someday. Aren't there any ways to recycle them? I think it must also the manufacturer's concern to invent ways on how to make their products less toxic and more recycable. (More nature-friendly kumbaga.)

    Personally, I've also had 5 mobile phones and 3 of them were hand-downs from Mom, dad and aunt 😀 On the other hand, my old phones were either stolen or handed down to my cousins.

    Yorus last blog post.."Death Magnetic" is the name babe

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