Pollution new technologies: IT, internet, hi-tech… 2

Continuation and end of the dossier on the computer pollution and new technologies

Companies have an essential role here, with their energy-hungry equipment parks, and every effort counts, including when it comes to IT. It is now accepted that business computing - from desktops to servers - can account for up to 25% of the energy consumed by a business. At the same time, Chinese economy feels the need to modernize, and to connect to the Internet in order to gain efficiency and thus become more competitive on a global scale. These two trends converge, there is a need, both for the developed economies and those which are in the process of development, to adopt eco-responsible technology.

Which fields do you work in China?

Our main sales effort in China relates to our processors, which are increasingly popular in the market. This is the case in the IT ultra-mobility sector, where our high energy efficiency processors are more and more often used in new projects from manufacturers. This is also the case for the eco responsible PC market with our zero carbon processor.
Remember that this processor is the first in the world with a zero carbon footprint: all CO2 emissions generated by the operation of the processor over a period of three years are subject to carbon compensation through a vast program for the realization reforestation, alternative energy and energy conservation projects. Finally, let us not forget the many products of the thin client workstation type, where VIA has an overall market share of 50%.

What are the implications for energy consumption?

Our desktop processor only consumes 20 watts, while our competitors' ones hit 89 watts. But this is not enough since, at the scale of the company, the heat dissipation caused by the entire computer park in place requires additional air conditioning or efficient cooling devices. By using computers with good energy efficiency, we obtain an indirect energy saving, difficult to quantify, but ultimately having an impact on the overall bill.

Can we expect similar devices in the world?

With the growing awareness of environmental issues around the world, and the huge role that IT companies can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we believe that more and more eco-responsible products this type will arrive on the market, both in emerging and developed economies.

Google's "hidden" farms, large consumers of energy

Google maintains the mystery. Difficult to determine precisely the locations of its "farms", server centers scattered around the world. French sites specializing in the search engine, such as Web Rank Info or Dico du Net, endeavor to list them even if it means crediting them in certain cases with a mention "out of service since ...". But the brand is finding it more and more difficult to hide its new constructions, which are too imposing not to attract attention. The firm has between 45 and 60 server farms around the world.
According to Martin Reynolds, a Gartner Group analyst quoted by the New York Times, Google is the world's fourth largest server manufacturer after Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The firm would have invested 1,5 billion dollars in 2006 for its development and, in particular, for its operational centers. A large part of this investment is devoted to the construction of a huge data center built in a town of 12 inhabitants, The Dalles, on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon. A complex the size of two football fields impossible to conceal even though the firm used a nominee, Design LLC, to initiate talks in early 500.
This new farm, reports the New York Times, consists of two rectangular buildings, each equipped with a cooling plant. The site, located about 1000 km from the Mountain View Googleplex, would have been chosen for the presence of optical fiber and its proximity to a hydroelectric dam which will allow the servers to be cooled but above all to reduce the cost of electricity.
Because as Olivier Duffez, author of Google Trucs de pros reports, “given the number of machines that run 24 hours a day, it is customary to say that to find out where Google's data centers are hiding, you just have to look for the or electricity is the cheapest ”. According to the New York Times, a data center of this size would consume as much electricity as an American city of 24 people.
The brand avoids, however, being accountable for its energy consumption. The New York Times estimated, in 2006, that the number of Google servers was 450. If we include the consumption of Google's servers in the global consumption of servers, estimated at 000 terawatt-hours per year, it increases by 123%, says the authoritative report by Jonathan G. Koomey. According to our calculations, Google would therefore consume 1,7 terawatt hours per year, the equivalent of two nuclear power plants. Asked by Le Monde.fr, Erik Teetzel, technical project manager at Google, refused to comment on this estimate which does not include the needs for cooling and air conditioning systems.
To avoid the proliferation of too energy-intensive servers, the firm had to bet on the efficiency of each of them. Google uses derivatives of low cost and low consumption PCs (250 watts) equipped with Sun processors specially designed to optimize their power consumption. And to woo the brand in turn, engineers from Intel, new suppliers since 2007 of the search engine, have been "maniac to the point of designing a unique motherboard for them, unique memory sticks, working on every aspect. cost, ”explains Pat Gelsinger, co-head of the Intel Digital Enterprise Group.
Recently, Google has developed another way to reduce its astronomical costs in terms of energy while improving its image. In the spring of 2007, more than 9 solar panels were installed on the roofs of the Googleplex buildings in Montain View. The objective of the "Clean Power" project is to produce 000 megawatts per day - or 1,6 terawatt hours per year - (the equivalent of the consumption of 0,6 Californian households) and thus reduce its consumption by 1% per day. peak electricity needs.

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Polluting Computers

Pollution of a computer begins long before it ends up in the trash. According to a report published in 2003 by Eric Williams and Ruediger Kuehr, two academics working for the United Nations, to produce a desktop computer is to use the equivalent of nearly two tons of natural resources. While other consumer goods, such as a refrigerator, or a car require only one or two times their weight in fossil fuel and chemicals, a 24 kilogram computer claims at least ten times its own. That is 240 kg of fuel and 22 kg of chemicals, without counting 1,5 tonnes of clean water. The manufacture of silicon chips, parts which allow the transformation of information within each machine, is particularly energy intensive. It takes no less than 1,6 kg of fossil matter, 72 grams of chemicals and 30 liters of pure water to melt each one.
Computers contain a number of polluting substances, dangerous for those who handle them at the time of their manufacture and for anyone who will later come into contact with electronic waste, directly or indirectly. In addition to lead and mercury, whose harmful effects are known, there is a series of compounds with unpronounceable names. Flame retardants are one of them. These contaminants, used to counter the risk of fire, are found inside the monitors. If their effects are not all yet known, a study by the Center of Expertise in Environmental Analysis in Quebec suspects them of being responsible for hyperthyroidism and developmental disorders of the nervous system.
Another dangerous product is cadmium, which is used as a protective coating for ferrous metals. When it is released into nature, it is absorbed by organic matter in the soil as well as by aquatic organisms (mussels, oysters, shrimp, langoustines, fish). If ingested by humans, it can cause gastroenteritis and could cause cancer.
Also used in the manufacture of computers, hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic substance, is a compound whose components are sprayed to prevent corrosion. Present in wastewater, it can reach the water table, and by repercussion end up in tap water. Finally, polybrominated diphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), used for printed circuits to make them non-flammable, have effects on the liver, thyroid and estrogenic functions.
Since the publication of the UN report, legislation has changed. The RoHS directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) was adopted by the European Union in 2005 and entered into force in France on July 1, 2006. It prohibits the sale of electrical and electronic products containing the products mentioned in Eric's report. Williams and Ruediger Kuehr. China, Japan and South Korea, the main producers of this type of equipment, have indicated their intention to introduce similar provisions.

The ecological cost of e-commerce

With 12 billion euros in e-commerce sales in France in 2006, the Internet is taking on the appearance of a department store window. The Fevad (Federation of distance selling companies) now lists 22 sales sites on secure platforms - against 000 in 5. In perpetual growth, the intangible economy is gradually taking shares in commerce traditional, in the field of cultural products, tourism, clothing and IT. According to the Forrester Research institute, e-commerce is expected to reach 800 billion euros in turnover in 2003 on the European market.
Without being absolutely clean, isn't this new mode of consumption all the same less harmful than the traditional economy? Doesn't the network replace, for example, the large-scale hypermarkets? In the United States, Internet proselytes regularly evoke the 3 Ds: "demobilization, dematerialization and decarbonization".
“Demobilization” offers the prospect of a significant reduction in the energy consumed by transport. The “dematerialisation” suggests a reduction in the areas allocated to mass distribution, as well as a reduction in the distribution chain. As for "decarbonization", it is the direct consequence of the two previous developments: it corresponds to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
The benefits of the Internet economy for the environment have so far only been the subject of very few studies. “E-commerce encourages massive customization of production and marketing techniques through“ just in time ”,“ just enough ”and“ just for you ”modes, which can reduce consumption,” say Daniel Sui and David Rejeski, two American academics in a study conducted in 2002. “The rise of e-commerce can reduce the number of shopping centers and the superfluous space they occupy. This can lead to the dismantling of shopping centers in the United States. "
A 1999 OECD report estimates that the spread of e-commerce could reduce the construction of retail buildings by 12,5%. Finnish academics have for their part tried to quantify the possible ecological gain of e-commerce. According to their results, doing their errands on the Internet, instead of traveling, could reduce Finnish greenhouse gas emissions by 0,3 to 1,3%.
However, the American researchers MM. Sui and Rejeski warn against any form of idealization. “The Internet's potential for energy saving is undeniable, but it is nonetheless too early to paint an idyllic landscape of the environmental impact of the emerging digital economy. Any positive development is potentially the bearer of negative development ”, they conclude.
While it makes the offer more flexible, e-commerce is also creating new needs. Internet users now consume night and day and spend more. The Internet also abolishes borders, but not distances. In 2001, Scott Matthews and Chris Hendrickson, two academics from Pittsburg, compared the environmental cost of top-selling American books available on the Internet and in traditional stores.
While e-commerce distribution costs are lower, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions emitted remains the same as in traditional sales channels. Air transport induced by e-commerce counterbalances road transport for mass distribution. Pollution is still present on the information routes.

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The painful beginnings of recycling IT waste in France

The collection of electronic and electrical waste is still far from the objective declared by the French State: to manage to recycle and recover 4 of the 14 kilograms of this waste that each French person discards on average each year. For the past six months, local authorities and manufacturers have been required to set up the selective collection of computers, mobile phones, refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, etc. This is what is imposed by the European directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), transposed into French regulations on November 15, 2006, late compared to most neighboring countries.
Sylviane Troadec, director of Valdelec, one of the main industrialists in the recycling of WEEE in France, does not hide his impatience. "We are at less than 30% of the planned tonnage, or less than 1,2 kg per inhabitant," she warns. Only some three hundred local collectivities have signed contracts to set up selective collection, indicates the National Recycling Circle, which represents these collectivities. They are even less numerous to have actually launched the collection.
Elected officials and “eco-organizations” responsible for overseeing collection are responsible for these delays. Sarah Martin, from the Environment and Energy Management Agency, procrastinates: “We shouldn't expect miracles. The organization of collection channels is complex. This WEEE expert stresses that local authorities that have already signed collection contracts bring together 16 million French people. But getting started is slow. The director of Valdelec points out: “Municipalities are often cautious, they fear having to strengthen the security of waste collection centers, because of the numerous bands of metal thieves. »But Sylviane Troadec hopes that, year after year, the recycling sector will have reached its cruising rate before the end of 2008.
After collection, recycling. By grinding or by manual sorting, a dozen specialized companies are responsible for cleaning up the CRTs or recover the metal circuits and cables. They are financed by the manufacturers of WEEE and ultimately by consumers themselves, who pay henceforth a tax on each equipment: two euros for a desktop computer and a lower screen twenty inches, thirty cents for a laptop.
"The main difficulty is plastics," says Fabrice Mathieux, a Grenoble university specialist in recycling ecodesign. "There are only industrial recycling processes for three types of plastics out of the thirty commonly used in the manufacture of WEEE," he explains. The director of Valdelec confirms: “The plastics have been dismantled, but their processing is still in its infancy. The problem is not technical but economic: multiplying industrial processes is expensive, and there is not necessarily a demand for each type of recycled plastic.
Suddenly, there is still a vagueness on the finally recycled portion of each electronic or electrical equipment, fixed at 65% of its weight for a computer by the European directive. “Recyclers are often forced to make a choice between their profitability and the imperatives of the directive,” observes Fabrice Mathieux. The director of Valdelec explains frankly: “We are not yet really controlled, very smart who can say if everyone respects the recycling rate. "
The word "recycling" gives the illusion that the materials of an object can have several cycles of life. In the case of IT, we are still far from the mark.

Update on legislation

The Basel Convention, adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992, took stock of the cross-border movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal. Originally created in order to prevent the transfer of hazardous substances and wastes from rich countries to poor countries, it was amended in 1995 (Basel Ban Amendment) to include the countries of the EU, the OECD and Liechtenstein and to ban exports to all other member countries. The United States has not yet ratified the Basel Convention or the amendment, and the exports noted by the Ban to China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc. remain a deliberate violation of this international convention.
In Europe, the awakening was late. National, European or even international directives are promulgated, with more or less severity in their application. However, the collection and recycling of packaging or glass waste has been taken into account in Europe for several decades. For electronic waste, the first recycling directive known as “WEEE” (for waste from electrical and electronic equipment) was introduced in 2002 and was voted in 2003. It came into force at European level in August 2005 and its transposition in France only dates from November 15, 2006. The latest entrants have been entitled to a deferral for its implementation: Slovenia obtained a period of one year, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Latvia two years to reach the minimum threshold of 4 kg of WEEE collected and recovered per year and per inhabitant that the directive imposes.
On the other side of the chain, manufacturers and distributors of household appliances are now required to set up appropriate recovery, return and treatment systems. For traders, there is also an obligation to take back the replaced equipment by purchasing a new equivalent product. Finally, for individuals, each purchase now includes a special recycling tax, calculated by the weight of the object. One euro cent for an iPod, thirty cents for a laptop, and two euros for a desktop computer with screen.
The United States are still experimenting: some states such as California or Washington are far ahead, following the EU directive, but appear to be isolated cases. In Asia, Japan has taken the problem very seriously since 2001 and remains ahead of Europe thanks to a law on household waste soon adapted to computer equipment.
But directives are not everything, we must also create recycling channels, and above all educate: green labels for the preservation of the environment have emerged in order to make future customers aware of the “saving gesture”. The Energy Star ecolabel, set up by the European community, is a guarantee that the device purchased is energy efficient. Globally, the TCO label is a benchmark in terms of energy saving and respect for the environment. However, it is Greenpeace with its "Guide for a responsible high-tech", an uncompromising classification of the efforts of the biggest manufacturers in the electronics industry, which appeals the best.
The most serious problem lies above all in the non-application by the States of these directives: despite the Basel convention, Europe, the United States and Japan continue to illegally export waste and toxic products, in particular to Southeast Asian shipments.

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The IT industry in the era of the "green attitude"

In recent months, computer and server manufacturers have adopted the "green attitude" and claim that their computers are "ultra low consumption" and "carbon free", and that their servers are "low wattage". ).

HP and Chinese VIA specialize in "green" computers for businesses and the general public. They brought a line of “ultra low power” desktops and laptops to market by developing the world's first “zero carbon footprint” processor with a maximum power consumption of around 20 watts.

The giant IBM has been declining its new family of servers since March and emphasizes reducing energy consumption rather than the endless race for speed and power. These new “low wattage” machines will be able to operate at 40 or 50 watts, half as much as conventional servers. Significant advantage for companies, a lower electric bill - therefore a return on investment in three years - but also a drop in heating in the server rooms and therefore a reduction in the regime of the cooling systems, which alone would represent half of the electricity consumption of the servers.
But not all manufacturers have started to do it yet: Apple, in particular, has been strongly criticized by Greenpeace. He is committed to being "greener" (greener). The movement seems to be starting.

Green finds from computer manufacturers

Eliminate toxic products from the computer manufacturing circuit and develop machines that consume less energy. Manufacturers are increasing the number of eco-responsible initiatives. To name just a few examples, the Swedish company Swedx in partnership with Samsung produces wireless USB mice (photo), keyboards and large wooden screens. For its part, ColdWatt manufactures power supplies for computers from 650 W to 1 W, which produce 200% less heat and consume 45% less energy than a conventional power supply.

In Japan, the Lupo company markets a recyclable PC case, made entirely from cardboard (photo), for around 75 euros. The recyclable box is assembled yourself by removing the perforated parts of the cardboard and folding the lines according to the traces. So many initiatives that herald a rise in power of "green" computers in the coming decades.
More recently, the giants Google and Intel have announced that they are joining their efforts with those of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft to create computers that consume less energy. Computer manufacturers are committed to bringing low-power machines to market, and companies using these machines like Google or IBM to buy them. The objective is to reduce computer electricity consumption by 50% by 2010.

Tips for consuming less

Many sites, such as Eco-Blog or Tree Hugger (in English), list the simple actions that allow you to reduce the energy consumption of your computer equipment.
- Buy used equipment.
- For fans of flat screens, prefer LCD models rather than plasmas, which consume more energy.
- Use rechargeable batteries.
- Do not leave electronic equipment on standby but switch it off completely.
- Wait until your laptop's battery is empty before recharging it to make it last longer.
Before throwing away your old, old-fashioned computer, consider whether it could be sold on an auction site or if the manufacturer does not have a recycling program.

Take a step back from the ambient “technophilia” which encourages them to constantly renew their equipment or to know which companies are respectful of the environment and to choose accordingly.

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