A better control of digital waste

What is really behind digital technologies?

Nowadays they are essential for everybody, but do we know what impact those technologies could have?

Even if it seems “immaterial”, what is sure is that a lot of things are used to implement this technology and the environmental impact of it is real. There are 9 billion devices worldwide, including 2 billion smartphones, 1 billion computers and 5 to 7 billion connected items. This equipment alone accounts for 47% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by digital technology.

When manufacturing a 2kg computer, 800kg of raw material is used and 124kg of CO2 is generated. The manufacturing phase consumes more energy than the consumer’s use of the product. Using these devices also means being aware of their durability, which is being able to use them longer by repairing them and continuing to use them for more than 2 years rather than replacing them immediately. It is estimated that 30 million old phones lie in our drawers. Instead of storing them unnecessarily, you’d better take them to a computer or phone retailer.

On a daily basis, we consume more energy at work than at home. If you do not touch your device within the next hour, you can turn it off rather than leave it in standby mode. Also, you may use an extension cord with an ON/OFF switch so you can turn off the power of your internet box and TV receiver at night or before leaving home. It is estimated that 43% of people never turn off their boxes and only 41% turn them off only in case of extended absence.

Other tips to consume less energy: limit the number of open apps, disable the location, switch off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your phone and use the airplane mode at night.

The collection and treatment of this waste is mandatory. Most of the material contained in these equipments is recyclable and reusable; some of it is even precious (like gold or platinum) or is very rare (tantalum, lanthanum …). However, other components are dangerous for the environment and health (lead, bromine, arsenic, etc.) and must be treated accordingly.

The weight of an e-mail depends on the weight of the attachments, the storage time on a server but also the number of recipients. The way taken by an email goes through the DATA CENTER of your ISP which will receive, process and then store your message before sending it to the network, often on the other side of the globe before going through the DATA CENTER of your correspondent’s ISP and then only be received by your correspondent.

You may understand this better with a diagram :

The reason why you need to better target your recipients before sending an email is that they will have a better chance to be read. Indeed, mass mailing can be considered as undesirable or spam. On the other hand, you must have sorted your mailbox, deleting old emails that are unnecessarily stored and unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters. You can also install an anti-spam software on your device. Similarly, you’d better focus on local storage rather than on the cloud.

A propos de Sarah DUWALD

Etudiante en Master 2 Commerce électronique à la Faculté de Strasbourg.

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