mfioretti: e-waste*

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  1. A recent report suggests that at current prices, Bitcoin miners will consume an estimated 8.27 terawatt-hours per year. That might sound like a lot, but it’s actually less than an eighth of what U.S. data centers use, 1 and only about 0.21 percent of total U.S. consumption. It also compares favorably to the currencies and commodities that bitcoin could help replace: Global production of cash and coins consumes an estimated 11 terawatt-hours per year, while gold mining burns the equivalent of 132 terawatt-hours. And that doesn’t include armored trucks, bank vaults, security systems and such. So in the right context, bitcoin is positively green.
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  2. The researchers estimate that so-called e-waste will grow by 33 percent over the next four years, and by 2030 will weigh more than a billion tons. Nearly 80 to 85 percent of often-toxic e-waste ends up in an incinerator or a landfill, Tiwary said, and is the fastest-growing waste stream in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The answer may be scaled-up versions of a cryo-mill designed by the Indian team that, rather than heating them, keeps materials at ultra-low temperatures during crushing.

    Cold materials are more brittle and easier to pulverize, Tiwary said. “We take advantage of the physics. When you heat things, they are more likely to combine: You can put metals into polymer, oxides into polymers. That’s what high-temperature processing is for, and it makes mixing really easy.
    A transparent piece of epoxy, left, compared to epoxy with e-waste reinforcement at right. A cryo-milling process developed at Rice University and the Indian Institute of Science simplifies the process of separating and recycling electronic waste.

    A transparent piece of epoxy, left, compared to epoxy with e-waste reinforcement at right. A cryo-milling process developed at Rice University and the Indian Institute of Science simplifies the process of separating and recycling electronic waste. Courtesy of the Ajayan Research Group

    “But in low temperatures, they don’t like to mix. The materials’ basic properties – their elastic modulus, thermal conductivity and coefficient of thermal expansion – all change. They allow everything to separate really well,” he said.

    The test subjects in this case were computer mice – or at least their PCB innards. The cryo-mill contained argon gas and a single tool-grade steel ball. A steady stream of liquid nitrogen kept the container at 154 kelvins (minus 182 degrees Fahrenheit).

    When shaken, the ball smashes the polymer first, then the metals and then the oxides just long enough to separate the materials into a powder, with particles between 20 and 100 nanometers wide. That can take up to three hours, after which the particles are bathed in water to separate them.

    “Then they can be reused
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-03-27)
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  3. During the last decade, some of the world’s most respected media organizations have transformed Agbogbloshie into a symbol of what’s believed to be a growing crisis: the export—or dumping—of electronic waste from rich, developed countries into Africa. It’s a concise narrative that resonates strongly in a technology-obsessed world. There’s just one problem: The story is not that simple.

    According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 85 percent of the e-waste dumped in Ghana and other parts of West Africa is produced in Ghana and West Africa. In other words, ending the export of used electronics from the wealthy developed world won’t end the burning in Agbogbloshie. The solution must come from West Africa itself and the people who depend upon e-waste to make a living.

    Agbogbloshie is not a pleasant place to work. Most of the site is threaded by muddy lanes that cross in front of dozens of small sheds holding recycling businesses. Inside, owners, their families and employees manually dismantle everything from automobiles to microwave ovens. E-waste, defined as old consumer electronics, is actually a very small part of the overall waste stream in these lanes, filled with the clanking of hammers on metal. And phones, laptops and old TVs aren’t the only things that can be dangerous when recycled improperly.

    At Agbogbloshie, burning takes place at the edge of the site, and most of what’s burned is automobile tires, which are lined up for hundreds of feet and left to smolder, producing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and other hazardous substances. Later, workers will gather up the steel left behind.

    “The problem is that reporters come here thinking this is the destination for old laptops exported from the United States,” explains Robin Ingenthron, CEO of Good Point Recycling in Burlington, Vermont. His firm exports used, working laptops to Ghana. “But this isn’t the destination at all. The computer shops are.”

    The most detailed study of the used electronics issue was performed in 2009 by the UN Environment Programme, which found that Ghana imported 215,000 metric tons of “electric and electronic equipment” that year. Thirty percent of that total was new equipment. Of the 70 percent that constituted used goods, 20 percent needed repairs and 15 percent—or roughly 22,575 tons—was unsellable and bound for the dump.

    That’s a lot of unusable electronics (many of which are damaged in transit to Ghana). But it’s less than one percent of the 2.37 million tons of e-waste generated by the United States in 2009, and a nearly imperceptible fraction of the 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste generated globally in 2015. In other words, Agbogbloshie is not a global dumping ground. Like most places on Earth, it’s struggling to deal with what it generates on its own.

    Ingenthron is working with his Ghanaian importers to establish a model in which every ton of electronics that he exports must be offset by a ton of electronics that’s collected and recycled properly in Ghana. If Ghanaian importers want access to his used electronics in Vermont, they’ll have to comply. Ingenthron believes it will work, in large part because he ran a similar “fair trade” recycling business with Malaysian importers for nine years.
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  4. We begin with the premise that our way of life is now dependent on connected computing and that this way of life is, unfortunately, causing quite an environmental impact due to profit maximisation of large corporate strategy. We ask if it is possible to reduce the environmental cost of computing in a way that happens to be desirable as well as financially attractive, and we find that, surprisingly, this is indeed not only possible but also offers some amazingly creative opportunities as well, that are impractical to achieve with the current world-wide accepted monolithic product development strategies.

    We show clear benefits in user privacy, reductions in malware infections due to reduced computer sharing even in public libraries, work environments and educational establishments, thanks to the user being responsible for and in control of their own Computer Card.

    We also demonstrate clear benefits throughout the entire product lifecycle from end-to-end, for sales teams, factories, end-users, educational establishments, showing that there are clearly far more potential scenarios that can be envisaged than there is possibly room to describe in a single White Paper.

    We also provide a small glimpse into why current efforts to introduce modular computing are not entirely successful (or have been written off by quite large corporations, already), surprisingly leaving the market wide open for a radical paradigm shift in computing appliances based around the bewilderingly simple idea of moving the entire computer into a formerly well-known "Memory Card" case.

    For this to be even possible, however, Koomey's Law had to bring us computer chips that were below a critical threshold efficiency, size and price-point. That point was already reached, several years ago. It's time to bring eco-conscious modular computing to a world market.
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  5. there's multiple countries, islands, continents involved in the sourcing of the parts of an iPhone. I actually followed one assembly inside the phone - the home button, which also has a touch ID sensor. And you would think, oh, well, the parts all must be assembled in one place and then put together. But it doesn't work that way. The actual glass cover, the sapphire - synthetic sapphire that is the button - comes from one place. And that's sent to the next factory, which turns it into an assembly and adds a little circuit.

    And then it goes to another country, and - or it may even go back to the same place again for another part to be added because the expertise has been spread around the world. And by the time you finish this trip tick that this little assembly takes, there's something like 12,000 of miles embedded in the homely little button that goes on your phone. And the logistics behind the fully assembled phone is something like 160,000 miles. And that's just for the parts. It doesn't even consider the raw materials, the precious metals and the rare earth elements and all the other things that have to go in.

    1) Bunker fuel, a massive pollutant, is burned by the tonne, by international shipping fleets.
    2) Just 160 of these mega-ships pollutes more than all the cars in the world.
    3) That 160 is a small fraction of the entire fleet, which pollutes more than most countries, enough to be in the top 10 list of polluters.
    4) And it is all hidden and unaccounted for:

    " I » t's all off the books when we look at countries and businesses' carbon footprints because for it to count in the global assessment of carbon pollution, it has to belong to a country. But when these ships are at sea and beyond national boundaries, their emissions aren't part of that accounting. So this tremendous impact doesn't even figure in our calculations about, for instance, the carbon footprint of a product or a country or a business."
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  6. My contention with Cranz's story is that it doesn't talk about how these devices are impacting people's lives, hence missing the big picture. I believe that it doesn't necessarily matter if our smartphones aren't going to get any smarter. The first-generation Moto G, from a few years ago, can also help you quickly get information from the Web, and it can also allow you to book a cab using Uber app, and do pretty much everything that you do on a flagship smartphone. As Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson pointed out last month, the next "second smartphone revolution" could enhance the lives of millions of people in places such as Asia, where most of the population still doesn't have a smartphone. When you look at that, it becomes unnecessary to talk about the top-of-the-line specs and the rate at which these smartphones are receiving incremental improvements. The vast majority of people in the emerging world are in a desperate need of a bare-bone smartphone that allows them to make phone calls, even if it doesn't do it in a "redefined" fashion, and works with speeds that don't blow them away, a couple of things that I think we are taking for granted. Wilson wrote:
    The first 2.5bn smartphones brought us Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, WhatsApp, Kik, Venmo, Duolingo, and most importantly, drove the big web apps to build world class mobile apps and move their userbases from web to mobile. But, if you stare at the top 200 non-game mobile apps in the US (and most of the western hemisphere) you will see that the list doesn't look that different than the top 200 websites. The mobile revolution from 2007 to 2015 in the west was more about how we accessed the internet than what apps we used, with some notable and important exceptions. The next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all -- from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.
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  7. Danish regional electricity and broadband provider NRGi said a survey it commissioned from Megafon found support for digital smart city services that make life more convenient, but that there is concern about abuse of personal information.
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  8. L’idea è quella di mettere l’utente nella condizione di controllare ogni aspetto del telefono, e non il contrario. Se vuoi smontare completamente il telefono, ad esempio, puoi farlo. Inoltre, il Fairphone è l’unico smartphone ad aver ottenuto 10/10 da iFixit, che valuta la riparabilità dei prodotti tecnologici. Il punto più debole, in questo, è la fotocamera, deludente specialmente in indoor. Ma se domani una versione migliore fosse disponibile, mi piace l’idea di poterlo aprire e sostituirla.

    L’altro punto cruciale è quello della privacy e del modo in cui il telefono, e le app installate, utilizzano i miei dati. Il Fairphone offre un’opzione, Privacy Impact, che ad ogni download di una nuova app, mi informa su quanti dati la nuova applicazione finirà per gestire e in che modo. In pochi passaggi, quindi, è possibile modificare i settaggi e avere, anche in questo, un telefono più trasparente. In questo, il fatto che il sistema operativo del telefono sia Android, dà meno garanzie di quello che sarebbe possibile e il fatto che tutto graviti attorno a Google è uno dei punti deboli del Fairphone, alla luce della sua missione. Ma: “Un passo alla volta”, ricorda la bio Twitter di Fairphone. Tutto questo discorso è un processo, non una svolta radicale.

    Dopo una settimana di utilizzo, il Fairphone mi ha fatto ragionare su un aspetto in particolare del mio rapporto con la tecnologia: la lentezza. Come dicevamo, le performance del telefono non mi fanno rimpiangere il mio vecchio iPhone: ad Android ci si abitua e il tutto gira veloce e senza intoppi. Il Fairphone è un telefono lento in altri sensi: il modo in cui viene prodotto – la catena produttiva parte solo una volta raggiunti un tot di pre-order – e il modo in cui si fa usare. Tra le funzioni che preferisco, ad esempio, c’è il conteggio del tempo che trascorre tra ogni ogni volta che sblocco lo schermo per guardare le notifiche. La sfida con me stesso e far sì che sia sempre di più.
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  9. Researchers such as Smith have traced the democratising tradition of these sites back to 1976, when Lucas Aerospace workers created a Nobel prize-nominated plan for “socially useful production”. The aim was to democratise manufacturing by uniting workers with activists, trade unionists and scientists at community technology networks across London to inspire innovation that prioritised social use over private profit.

    Many of today’s shared machine projects manifest this ethos. Things Manchester, for example, builds local infrastructures across the city that provide a free Internet of Things for anyone to use. In London, the Restart Project’s workshops help people repair electronics. “When we maintain and resell,” says co-founder Janet Gunter, “we create value locally in an otherwise throwaway economy where things are manufactured far away. We reduce environmental impacts while bringing people together who might never have met otherwise.”
    Co-opting the grassroots

    Despite such potential, UK shared machine shops have much to fear from the fate of similar movements across the pond. Writers Evgeny Morozov and Cory Doctorow, along with others, warn of the deterioration of making subcultures in the US.

    They argue that the grassroots nature of the maker movement is increasingly being co-opted and that the commercialisation of such projects detaches them from their community roots. Tim Bajarin, for example, points out in a Time article that the maker movement has “caught the attention of many major players in the tech and corporate worlds”, including Intel, Ford and Nvidia.
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  10. with RePhone, we could connect modules with FPC cable/soldering/stitching/conductive ink or bread boards, which provides much more possibilities when designing. Unlike Google Ara, Rephone would broaden the open-source part to the software side.

    First, we created our RePhone system base on MTK’s SDK (Software development kit). For those who are new to programming, we provide instructions and sample codes based on different coding languages, e.g. Arduino/Lua/JaavaScript.

    For those who are familiar with programming, you can use the API (Application program interface) provided by RePhone, then you could rock RePhone inside out.

    And we will keep refining the operation system, in order to fully support Android by next year.

    In terms of cost, RePhone also has its privilage, a Rephone core with bluetooth module costs only as much as 2 McDonald meals: 12USD. And the full set of RePhone Create startup kit would only cost you 39USD
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