Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?


Ecology and electronics are two words that begin with the same letter, but for many years they have been diametrically opposed. Anyone who has seen the industrial zones in China where components for electronics are produced at least once will never forget this. A land similar to a Martian landscape, small lakes that literally shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow, little is left of the water in them. The air is saturated with bitterness, it is felt even on the tongue. Progress requires sacrifice, and someone always pays for it, and buying a brand new smartphone, you don’t even realize what is happening somewhere on the other side of the world. In Chile, I was struck by the Atacama Desert, huge turquoise pools filled with brine that gradually evaporates in the sun. The color of the water is given by lithium carbonate, from which they create modern batteries, the same lithium batteries that you can find in wristwatches and even electric cars. Chile has approximately 40% of the world’s lithium reserves, and the local mining company SQM operates in the country, as well as the American company Albemarle. The method for extracting lithium is simple, you need to create a brine solution that evaporates under the influence of the sun. But first it is created by pumping fresh water into underground reservoirs. Lithium producers are reluctant to talk about how much fresh water they use in their technological cycle. In Chile alone, enterprises pump 2000 liters of brine every second, which makes 63 billion liters a year! It is very difficult to imagine such a volume of water. In cubic meters, the number is not so striking – 63 million cubic meters or 63000 cubic kilometers. This is not the size of the smallest lake on our planet. Still not amazing?

We are accustomed to living in captivity of the illusion that we ourselves are not responsible for anything, our actions do not in any way affect the lives of our children or future generations. Responsibility for this or that choice is absent in most situations, and few people think about it. Choosing between a product from a company that does at least something for the environment, and one that does not make any efforts in this direction, we often choose a product based on the price, and everything else does not play the slightest role for us.

Let me give you an example that struck me during isolation and made me abandon a local restaurant that prepares excellent and tasty food. They brought me a couple of cardboard bags with different dishes – cutlets in one plastic package, mashed potatoes in another, seasoning in the third. In the end, after lunch, there were almost a dozen plastic packages left that go to the trash can. It is easy and simple to imagine how much plastic remains after all the buyers of this institution, but in the landfill it will decompose for centuries. A good gift for the next generations, don’t you think?

To shit for oneself is in some ways our national trait, no matter how offensive it may sound. Take a look at the following diagram.

The area of ​​Russian landfills is equal to the area of ​​Switzerland, which already evokes sadness and longing. But nihilism on the part of ordinary people raises even bigger questions. Unwillingness to cut back on their own waste and think about what they are doing and how. I will give an example that personally jarred and hurt me a lot.

In the summer, I brought a new TV The Sero to the dacha, it can rotate automatically depending on the content that is displayed on it, a screen diagonal of 43 inches. A kind of TV for young people who watch TikTok or Instagram. Flirting with a youth audience. For cardboard packaging, Samsung came up with ideas on what to do with it, and even an international idea competition was held. And he touched not only this TV, but all the latest models. Instead of throwing away the packaging, she could get a second life – in the form of a table, a cat house or a shelf for books. In fact, there were about a dozen ideas, and even more – on a specially created site.

And then a wave of melancholy swept over me, people I did not know wrote that this was “golny PR”, none of the buyers of such a TV would care about the Earth and, in general, everyone was indifferent to the environment. In short, the rich don’t need it, and the poor will buy something and don’t give a damn about the packaging. I don’t know how you’re working, but in the family we are always trying to adapt the packaging, give it a second life. Put something in cardboard boxes, use them for children’s crafts. Yes, however, we are trying to find another application for old things. Why? The answer lies on the surface, the longer such things are used, work, the less garbage appears on the planet.

Look at what the competition made for Samsung TVs, things don’t look trendy, but they say a lot about the people who use them. This is not a tribute to fashion, but a necessity to preserve our world.

Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?

Loud words, and nothing more? Many people think this way and do not see anything behind this. Advertising, an attempt to create PR out of the blue. And nothing else. It’s hard to believe that someone is serious about the environment. After all, your shirt is closer to your body. But the problem is that almost no one thinks about it and, by and large, knows nothing. At the very least, we have learned to recycle used batteries, containers have appeared in stores in the neighborhood, and this is welcome. But how many harmful materials are in the same phones?

No one thinks about what technological processes the production of a smartphone consists of, how changing even one component can reduce the impact on the environment. Today, polymers are actively used in the design of any device, for example, PPA (PolyPhthalAmide). An alternative is polyketone PK. It is slightly more expensive, but reduces greenhouse gas emissions from synthesis. Since 2016, Samsung has been actively using PK, in total, starting from the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet and ending with the Fold, they have used 560 tons of this material. What does this mean for the environment? The change in only one material made it possible to reduce emissions by 280 tons of CO, and this amount of greenhouse gas can be absorbed by 42 thousand pine trees. A trifle at first glance, but such trifles form a general picture of our world.

Let’s take a look at the Galaxy Z Fold2’s packaging to see how friendly it is to the world around it. The box consists of a plastic skirt and a cardboard inner part. Pay attention to the signs on the box.

Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?

A box has been printed using soy ink. There are no flaws in print quality compared to traditional dyes, but such inks are safe for the world around them, they are easily recyclable in the environment. And the box itself is partly made of recycled plastic.

Further – more, if you look at how these or those components for smartphones are produced, then a new world will open. Samsung collects old devices, including chargers, to recycle them. In 2019, approximately 5000 tons of plastic were recycled into new smartphone chargers. In the new charge, the share of old materials is not too large, only 20%. But if you look back, then twenty years ago it was equal to zero.

By the beginning of 2021, Samsung decided that all packaging and instructions will be made only of materials that do not harm the environment. Instead of vinyl and plastic, different types of paper will be used, which will find their application literally everywhere. And this is not such a big loss, after all, you see the package only once, and then, as a rule, you throw it away.

Let’s take a look at another aspect of the environment, how we charge our devices. For example, Apple has been creating charging cables from biodegradable materials for many years, which in theory was a gentle move towards the environment. In practice, this was not the case, cables broke, failed, and users were forced to buy new ones, thereby increasing the volume of waste (a broken cable is a technical waste, which creates a load on the environment). But another question that no one ever asks for themselves is how the charger works. In 2012, Samsung’s flagships received a new technology for those times: in rest mode, after the battery was fully charged, they turned off (energy consumption was no more than 20 mW). By 2014, almost all mobile devices received this technology as it saves electricity. Crumbs? Frivolous volume? In a UN report describing the contribution of various companies to environmental initiatives, it was considered that since 2014, such charges from Samsung have saved a total of 13 million kW, which corresponds to the operation of five medium-sized hydroelectric power plants in the same time. It seems that this is also a trifle, but more comes from such trifles.

Quite interesting developments can often be seen at presentations. Thus, one of Samsung’s flagships will receive a charger with an integrated circuit, which will achieve almost zero electricity consumption after a full charge, and the charging process itself will be adaptive. This partially explains why Samsung is not keen to add 50 or 100W fast chargers to their devices, they waste too much energy inefficiently. I never thought about this aspect of technology, but when they showed me the numbers, I was impressed.

As part of trade-in initiatives, the company not only sells new devices, but recycles old ones. The proprietary program is called Galaxy Upcycling, in which devices are trying to give a second life. For example, within the framework of this program, the EYELIKE instrument was created, it allows you to determine eye diseases, examine the fundus. Such medical devices are expensive, but EYELIKE is inexpensive, only 10% of their price. In Vietnam, not the richest country in the world, 90 EYELIKE devices appeared. The 2019 project was recognized as successful; about 14 thousand people in Vietnam underwent medical examination with the help of such devices.

Electronics and ecology. How can we improve our world with simple actions?

While exhibitions still existed, at Samsung’s stands, one corner was always assigned to such projects, at which third-party developers showed how to use old smartphones, and not dispose of them due to obsolescence. And dozens of such projects appeared every year, they extended the life of devices.

And we can do exactly the same. Fight against your desire to change your old smartphone to a new one at any cost, especially if it is very few years old. For flagships, the optimal service life today is 3-4 years, no less. Changing such devices annually is a waste (for me this is part of my job, but in the case of other devices I always try to squeeze the maximum out of them, I am in no hurry to update just because of my own desires).

I remembered only some of the examples from what I know on this topic, what lay on the surface. Large corporations are often the first to realize that soon the world may become such that it will not be about selling new devices, the climate will change so that we will be worried about completely different problems. Therefore, they make remarkable efforts to prevent this from happening, unwittingly become “green” and use environmentally friendly technologies. In many ways, this is a deliberate choice after the shock that people experience when they find themselves in those regions where the future of components is being forged, and at least Chile or China. Or to places where you can come across a dump of electronics, for example, in India such a place amazed me that it was possible to shoot the next episode of “Mad Max” without decorations.

You can indulge yourself with the illusion that this will not affect us and our grandchildren will solve the problems. I’m not sure that they will remember us with a kind word, as life will become more difficult in all aspects. It is surprising that these issues can be resolved relatively easily, for this you just have to think about what exactly we are doing and how. Paradise beaches, which have turned into garbage dumps, no longer just hint, but scream that our approach to nature requires rethinking. And we can do a lot in this direction, but the desire is shown by a small number of people.

You don’t need to be seven inches in the forehead to predict the main theme of the comments. Rich companies use ecology to promote their products, but they really don’t give a damn. And, accordingly, the person also does not care, and he is interested in his price, but he does not want to think about the rest. For a mortgage, a small salary, and in general, I want to spend money on something else, not the environment. Same approach. But it is impossible to justify such a view of the world, as well as the fact that people today literally shit in the places where they live, and this has even become the norm. Garbage will swallow us all sooner or later, and electronic garbage is doubly dangerous, as it pollutes the environment for many centuries. But you can not believe in it and not even think about it. And really, why? We live with you one day.


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