Right-to-repair advocates expect more bills in 2023 after New York success

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Advocates expect at least 20 states to introduce legislation aimed at making it easier forthe public and e-scrap refurbishers to fix electronics now that New York has passed the country’s first right-to-repair law of its kind. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Act into law Dec. 28. It requires original equipment manufacturers to make repair information and tools for certain electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops, available to the public.

How companies at CES are taking on climate change (or pretending to)

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

I can’t get it out of my head: A honkingly big Caterpillar sign that read, “JOIN US AS WE BUILD A BETTER WORLD.” The digital recruitment billboard at CES 2023 followed promos for an autonomous compactor and excavator, and proceeded another callout: “CHECK OUT OUR BIG AUTONOMOUS TRUCK.”

I did, and boy was it ever.

A “better world” could mean anything in corporate-speak, but in this case, the company is talking specifically about sustainability — and using aspirational language to distance itself from a fossil-fueled role in carving up the earth. Like Caterpillar, many of the exhibitors I saw as I walked the tech-show floor seemed to be rinsing their brands via earthly taglines, stock photos of crops and sunbeams, plastic trees and/or AstroTurf. I find this sort of thing especially distracting now that climate is my main beat, and that’s unfortunate, because there was still lots of intriguing climate (and adjacent) tech on display this year, tucked in among the vague evocations of nature.

Print, recycle, repeat: Scientists demonstrate a biodegradable printed circuit

Read the full story from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

According to the United Nations, less than a quarter of all U.S. electronic waste gets recycled. In 2021 alone, global e-waste surged at 57.5 million tons, and only 17.4% of that was recycled. 

Some experts predict that our e-waste problem will only get worse over time, because most electronics on the market today are designed for portability, not recyclability. Tablets and readers, for example, are assembled by gluing circuits, chips, and hard drives to thin layers of plastic, which must be melted to extract precious metals like copper and gold. Burning plastic releases toxic gases into the atmosphere, and electronics wasting away in landfill often contain harmful materials like mercury, lead, and beryllium.

But now, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have developed a potential solution: a fully recyclable and biodegradable printed circuit. The researchers, who reported the new device in the journal Advanced Materials, say that the advance could divert wearable devices and other flexible electronics from landfill, and mitigate the health and environmental hazards posed by heavy metal waste.  

Apple calls on suppliers to decarbonize operations by 2030

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive.

Apple said Tuesday that it is urging suppliers to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the tech giant works to make its entire supply chain carbon neutral by 2030. 

The company is asking manufacturers to decarbonize Apple-related operations by taking steps such as running on 100% renewable electricity. Apple will track progress through yearly audits.

As part of the company’s overarching sustainability goals, Apple also announced plans to construct large-scale solar and wind projects in Europe with projects ranging between 30 and 300 megawatts. The goal of the projects is to produce enough renewable energy to power all devices on the continent with low-carbon electricity.

Consumers expect tech to drive sustainability innovation

Read the full story at Morning Consult.

The technology industry is benefiting from a halo effect when it comes to sustainability.

Over the past few years, nearly every major technology company has announced sustainability goals, ranging from electrifying delivery fleets to eliminating plastics in product packaging to achieving carbon neutrality by target dates. Amazon.com Inc., for example, in 2019 co-founded The Climate Pledge, a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2040. A few months later, Microsoft Corp. announced it was aiming to be carbon negative by 2030. Six months after that, Apple Inc. committed to going 100% carbon neutral by the same year — and then Google announced plans to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

But tech is not unique in these ambitious climate targets. Industry leaders across sectors have made similar commitments. Morning Consult research shows that what makes tech’s position unique is that consumers are more likely to view it as part of the solution than the problem when it comes to sustainability, albeit with somewhat higher expectations to drive innovation in this space and to deliver on promises.

REMADE announces new technology license for e-waste recycling

Read the full news release at Waste360.

The REMADE Institutea 154-member public-private partnership established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) with an initial investment of $140 million, today announced a new technology license involving a technological innovation capable of recovering precious metals from used electronics more easily and cost-effectively.

The innovation, developed with REMADE support, is part of a research and development project first funded by the Institute in 2020. The R&D project, “Low-Concentration Metal Recovery from Complex Streams Using Gas-Assisted Microflow Solvent Extraction (GAME),” is still in progress and is led by Wencai Zhang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, and Aaron Noble, Ph.D., an associate professor in the same department. Phinix, LLC, is the industry partner on the project. REMADE’s tech team oversees the project, ensuring it meets the Institute’s and DOE’s technological milestones.

Good laptop packaging design can reduce waste and help our tech necks

Read the full story at Treehugger.

This is a little post about a little box that comes with a little computer. But the box tells a big story about packaging design.

Computers are high-value products and need solid, durable packaging. I keep all the boxes my Apple products come in (recycled and FSC content) and stack them up to raise my notebook for Zoom calls—I don’t want people looking up my nose. But it is all sort of ad-hoc.

Now, Taiwan computer company ASUS, which makes the thin and expensive ExpertBook B9, is changing the game.

Dumpster diver: How I find rare-earth metals in industrial landfill

Read the full story in Nature.

PhD student Gianluca Torta contributes to green recycling by extracting rare-earth metals from industrial landfill for reuse in electric motors.

Samsung will let you fix your own phone, if you dare

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Samsung said this week that customers who want to try their hands at fixing gadgets can now buy genuine smartphone and tablets parts from repair resource website iFixit, as well as from Samsung’s Experience stores across the country.

The push to make at least some of its gadgets more easily repairable comes amid a broader national conversation about the right to fix the products we buy, spurred mostly by heightened scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission beginning last year. Since then, Apple launched a self-service repair program of its own, while Google partnered with iFixit to offer tools and genuine parts to would-be tinkerers.

But like some of those other self-service programs, Samsung’s approach comes with a few quirks.

Electronics are built with death dates. Let’s not keep them a secret.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Our analysis of 14 popular consumer devices found most could stop working in 3 to 4 years because of irreplaceable batteries. Here’s how we get the tech industry to design products that last longer — and do less damage to the environment.