Electronics Waste Programs Ineffective in Most U.S. States

Improvements could come from industry consensus

3 min read
Electronics Waste Programs Ineffective in Most U.S. States
Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Discarded consumer electronics constitute a veritable Mount Everest of toxic trash. The worst culprits are rich nations that disproportionately send this “e-waste” to the world’s poorest countries for disposal. But new research is uncovering the true scope of the problem and the best way to solve it.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans consumers alone dispose of more than 500 000 computers, TVs, and cellphones per day. And even when those items are said to be recycled, the truth is sometimes different. The United Nations treaty known as the Basel Convention has estimated that as much as 80 percent of “safely disposed” e-waste is, in fact, shipped to developing countries to be burned, buried, or chemically dissolved—burdening some cities and watersheds in Asia and Africa with public health problems for years to come.

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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