> Ted Smith

> The Clean Computer Campaign


>Ted Smith is Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Toxics

>Coalition, an 18 year old non-profit community based organization

>in San Jose, that focuses on sustainability issues within the

>high-tech industry, both locally and globally. In his previous

>life, Ted was an attorney in San Jose.


>Ted will discuss SVTC's Clean Computer Campaign, which encourages

>computer manufacturers to develop re-use and recycling

>infrastructure for the escalating volume of "obsolete" products,

>and to re-design their products to minimize their environmental

>and health impacts. He will also discuss the growing international

>movement to promote Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to

>establish life-cycle responsibilities for manufacturers, and how

>Silicon Valley companies are responding.


Ted began his talk by discussing the way Computer Chip Fabrication facilities use water. They use about ten million gallons a day of the stuff, and you would think that since the law in many places says that the water they discharge has to be clean, and it often turns out to be cleaner than the water they take in, it would be a small effort to change the plumbing so they can reuse the stuff. Some of them are starting to use this sort of closed loop process, and that is progress.

However, the bulk of the clean computer campaign is focused on the consumer and post consumer phase of a computers life. It turns out that a typical computer contains up to five pounds of lead, as well as cadmium, mercury, PVC plastic, and Brominated flame retardants. Because of this, a computer should actually be considered a chemical waste product, and be kept out of the household waste stream. If put into a landfill, chemicals will leach out and endanger groundwater and the health of local communities.

There are some pilot projects that are able to make enough from the recycling of computer components to keep going, but they are few and far between. Because of the enormous variety of computers that come in when somebody does a collection, it is not easy to set up a disassembly line that can move through them in a cost effective way. There are many large piles of assorted computer waste that are growing, as well as many old computers in basements that are waiting for a good destination.

One of the driving forces behind the rapidly growing computer waste problem is Moore's Law, the prediction that computer productivity double every eighteen months. Because of this, many computer life cycles have been short compared to the hardware's capabilities. Ted Smith thinks that this law has done much to centralize power and has put many people in awkward positions. However, there are many people in the computer industry that have jobs that are based on the rapid product cycling, and change for that must come from outside the leading edge companies.

Another problem with computers is the power they consume. Ted Smith showed us a slide put out by the coal industry that predicted that half of the power consumed in a few years would be used by computers, a huge net increase in the amount of electricity consumed. While it is true that there are many applications where computers are competing with transportation, particularly in information distribution applications, and it is possible to use them to reduce the total amount of energy consumed by a company or other system, that is by no means the norm at this point in time. He shared several anecdotes that illustrated the growth in power consumption in this area since the place became Silicon Valley.

Tian Harter

for more info click www.svtc.org/cleancc/cccpage.htm