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Laptops Impact the Environment: How to Minimise Them?

Laptops have become a significant part of our lives, with many of us viewing them as friendly machines we use to connect to the rest of the world. In turn, this has helped make them indispensable in both our private and professional lives.

However, this practicability has a significant downside: their production uses non-renewable resources. And once they have outlived their lives, their improper disposal poses health and environmental risks.

Fortunately, all is not lost, as understanding their environmental impact can help us better understand the importance of business computer recycling. Read on for tips on how to advocate for a more sustainable earth.

How Laptops Impact the Environment

Assessing the environmental impacts of a modern laptop requires an evaluation of all factors surrounding it: from the materials used in its manufacture to its energy efficiency and durability. And this is not forgetting whether it can easily be recycled or reused.

While laptops have a smaller ecological footprint than desktops, they still have the potential to cause untold environmental damage. Below is a look at how laptops impact the environment when not managed correctly and after becoming obsolete.

1. Production

Manufacturing a laptop necessitates using several environmentally unfriendly resources, such as rare-earth metals. Many of these materials are mined in China, a country with lax environmental protection standards, despite producing 60% rare-earth supplies.

After assembly, the laptops come with potentially dangerous polyvinyl chloride in wire coatings and lead in their built-in batteries. If burned, these items can emit harmful compounds like dioxin.  

2. Everyday Use

Compared to other electrical goods, laptops don’t consume too much power, but this doesn’t mean they don’t have a carbon footprint. According to estimates by the University of Pennsylvania, laptops consume between 20 and 50 watts per hour.

The true amount they consume will vary depending on the model and the operations they’re running at that given time. For example, a laptop on the high end of power consumption will use around 80 watts per hour and generate 0.11 pounds of carbon.

3. Disposal

When a laptop breaks or becomes obsolete, the only solution is disposal. The toxic materials inside it end up in landfills. And while some manufacturers, such as Dell, accept old laptops in their recycling programs, others don’t.

For example, statistics from the Circular Economy show that close to 22.8% of UK computers aren’t recycled. Failure to recycle a laptop means that its mercury, lead, and other toxic components can contaminate the groundwater near a landfill. This water will eventually enter the environment posing a severe health risk to users.

How Can These Impacts Be Reduced?

The ongoing global climate crisis impacts everyone, and the only way to maintain a temperature rise of less than 1.5°C is to reduce greenhouse releases. Addressing it requires breaking environmental conservation into minor actions that add to something big.

The following are tips to help reduce the impact caused by laptops on the environment:

1. Disposal and Recycle

Once the use of your laptop is over and you feel you want to get a new one, make sure to clean your personal data from the computer and send it for recycling. You can also take your laptop to a business computer recycling center to ensure an end-to-end solution. 

2. Buy a Refurbished Laptop

The old has become new in modern computing and environmental sustainability. If you decide to buy a new laptop, you should consider purchasing a refurbished one. Buying refurbished laptops from a reputable refurbishment program eliminates the uncertainty of buying from a peer-to-peer website.

With this purchase, you can rest easy knowing you have a warranty that protects your work, studies, and device. 

3. Optimise Energy Efficiency

If the fan in your laptop works, much energy is being used, creating waste. As you go about your duties, listen out for the fan. If the work you’re doing doesn’t demand a lot of processing, check which background programs are overworking the processor.

In most cases, the laptops are overheated due to unnecessary tasks running in the background. Terminate all these processes, and ensure that the laptop has sufficient airflow.

Remember, a hot computer is a wasteful one. Clean your laptop regularly, and confirm that the vents have good airflow. 

Wrapping Up

Laptops are wholly unsustainable, causing them to have a lasting impact on the environment. Ideally, they should last over a few years, so keeping yours even for one more year can make all the difference.

Recycling or giving away your old laptop is a good start. And when the time comes to replace it, go for the refurbished laptops. With these laptops, you’re assured of a quality product that helps you play your part in conserving the environment.

Contributed by Milica Vojnic, head of Marketing & Content of Wisetek. Wisetek provides data center services, data sanitization solutions, and refurbished laptops in the UK.



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Through inclusive climate action, which includes people like you and me, we can create a sustainable planet.

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