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COMPUTER AS A GLOBAL FACTOR


Content

ABSTRACT

This study seeks to rank the University of Guelphs current computer efficiency on a scale between a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario. For the purpose of our study, we have defined the worst-case scenario as all computer systems at the University of Guelph using old CRT monitors, old central processing units (CPUs), not making use of power saving strategies such as sleep and standby mode, and are active 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This worst-case scenario also lacks of provisions for acquiring energy efficient products and for environmentally sound disposal methods of computer equipment. We have defined the best-case scenario as all computers on campus having LCD energy saving monitors, new CPUs being ENERGY STAR certified, using energy saving techniques, and being active 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. ENERGY STAR certified technology allows computers to automatically switch to standby mode when inactive for certain amount of time, and thus allowing for energy savings. The best-case scenario also includes provisions for acquiring energy efficient products and disposing of computer equipment in an environmentally sound manner. In most basic terms, a CRT creates the visual image displayed by the monitor, by employing the interaction between an electron tube and a phosphor coated screen (Anonymous, 2003). In order to avoid radiation exposure to the viewer, the funnel glass of the CRT contains high concentrations of lead-oxide (Lee ., 2004). According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP), the lead found in funnel glass is considered a hazardous waste because it far exceeds the TCLP threshold of 5 mg/L leached, with values ranging from 10-20 mg/L leached per monitor (Lee., 2004). Williams (2003) also found that CRT monitors exceeded TCLP limits for zinc leachate, thus classifying it as a hazardous waste.

The hazard truly occurs when monitors are permitted to weather in landfills, releasing these toxic chemicals into soil, and subsequent water systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Title Page                                                                                                    i

Certification                                                                                                         ii

Dedication                                                                                                  iii

Acknowledgement                                                                                                iv

Table of Contents                                                                                       v

Abstract                                                                                                      vii     

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0     Introduction                                                                                                1

1.1     The Computer and Associated Environmental problems                           6

1.1.1  Energy Consumption                                                                        7

1.1.2  Physical Components and Toxins                                                7

1.1.3 Cathode Ray Tubes                                                                        8

1.1.4 Liquid Crystal Display                                                                   10

1.1.5 Plastics and Casings                                                                        11

 

CHAPTER TWO                           

2.0     Computer Manufacturing                                                                           12

2.1     Microchip Fabrication                                                                      12

2.2     Circuit Board Fabrication                                                                           14

2.3     Resource use in Manufacturing                                                                  14

2.4     Social and Political Implications                                                       15

2.5     Green procurement                                                                           16

2.5.1 The Acquisition of Green Computers                                           18

2.5.2   Power Saving Techniques and Ecolabeling                                 19

2.5.3   End of Life Management                                                               20

2.5.4   Reduction and Reuse                                                                      21

2.5.5   Recycling and Reduction                                                               22

2.5.6   Effective Recycling and Reduction Options                                23

 

CHAPTER THREE

3.0     Results                                                                                              26

3.1     Statistics Results                                                                               26

3.1.1  z-Test Statistical results                                                                    26

3.1.2  Best-case scenario                                                                                      26

3.2     Worst Case scenario                                                                         28

3.3     S- Plus Statistics Results                                                                            33

 

CHAPTER FOUR

4.0     Recommendations                                                                                      36

4.1     Conclusion                                                                                        43

References                                                                                                  45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

1.0    INTRODUCTION

Recently, topics such as global warming and climate change have drawn a lot of attention in the media and general public. The production and use of various forms of energy is a large contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change (BSD Global, 2002). Institutions and organizations worldwide have begun to take measures to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency in an attempt to lessen their environ-mental impact.

 

Computers and office equipment play an increasingly large role in energy consumption. Desktop computers, scanners and other electronic technology account for the fastest growing source of energy consumption in Canada (NRCan, 2002). Although energy consumption is rising, there are various methods that can be employed to increase energy efficiency. Many organizations and institutions have implemented green procurement policies that promote the purchasing of energy efficient products and the adoption of energy saving practices. These energy saving practices do not reduce the performance of the computers, they simply reduce their power consumption when not in use (Nordman et al., 1997). Most energy savings are derived from low power or 'sleep' modes that occur when the computer is idle. Green procurement policies also require an assessment of the environ-mental impacts of the products through all stages of its lifecycle (cradle-to-cradle). An important element of this assessment is determining the end-of-life disposal techniques available for various forms of office equipment, especially computer monitors containing lead bearing cathode ray tubes (CRTs).

 

As the student population and computer usage increases at the University of Guelph, an information technology (IT) strategy needs to be developed to address issues of energy consumption by computers and the procurement and disposal of IT equipment. The University of Guelph is facing a significant budget deficit (University of Guelph, 2005), and energy saving techniques for computer technology could be applied to help reduce costs attributed to inefficient energy practices. This project is especially significant due to the lack of similar studies at educational institutions across Canada. As Canadian universities are becoming more dependent on computer resources, they have the potential to save a significant amount of financial and environmental wealth by using efficient and environmentally sound equipment.

 

Although general computer usage of computers at the University of Guelph is increasing, actual values for energy consumption are unknown, as there currently is an unidentified number of computers on campus that are left active for indeterminate lengths of time. The University of Guelph has no large-scale energy conservation or cradle-to-cradle environmental efficiency strategies. An appropriate strategy would include guidelines that integrate the acquisition of energy efficient and environmentally responsible products, as well as environmentally sound disposal methods for older computers and CRT monitors. While there is a abundance of information regarding the recycling of older computer systems and CRT monitors, only a few examples have been found regarding such strategies in the context of post-secondary institutions. This project aims to incorporate knowledge from previous case studies and implement strategies with an on-campus perspective that consider the various demands associated with post-secondary institutions. Also, this project aims to provide the University of Guelph with recommendations to reduce the energy consumption of on-campus computers, to purchase energy efficient computer products, and to properly dispose of old computer equipment in an ecologically sound manner.

 

In order to achieve this goal, the objectives that we will address are as follows:

 

1.  Quantify, to the best of our ability, the approximate energy use in University of Guelph computer laboratories having greater than 20 computers, the libraries, and personal computers used by faculty and graduate students.

 

2.  Compare current energy use to better-case scenarios according to the null hypotheses.

 

3.    Investigate potential end-of-life disposal and recycling techniques as well as, options to dispose of toxic materials.

4.    Research the purchasing potential of energy efficient and environmentally responsible computer equipment.

 

5.     Explore energy conservation measures that reduce power consumption in computer laboratories and personal computers across campus. To achieve these objectives, this project was undertaken using several important assumptions.

 

Firstly, laptop computers available for student usage in the library were not taken into consideration for our study. It was beyond the scope of this study to obtain an accurate estimate of energy consumption, as much of the power requirements for laptops are met through battery power. Personal computers in residence were also not included in our study as their energy consumption varies year to year, and energy saving techniques would be di cult to implement. Secondly, computer use varies at different times during any given semester, and throughout the academic year. Student workloads and computer usage are subject to variability. This is an important point to consider, as the results found in this study correspond with weeks nine and ten of the winter semester and may not be representative of computer use at other times throughout the academic year.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all computers surveyed in this study are assumed to follow the same ratio of new liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors to old CRT monitors as identified in the MacLaughlin Library. Due to the constraints of this project, the MacLaughlin Library was used as a sample to quantify the usage of energy efficient LCD monitors throughout the University of Guelph campus. Other computer laboratories, faculty and graduate students are also assumed to follow this pattern.

 

This study seeks to rank the University of Guelphs current computer efficiency on a scale between a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario. For the purpose of our study, we have defined the worst-case scenario as all computer systems at the University of Guelph using old CRT monitors, old central processing units (CPUs), not making use of power saving strategies such as sleep and standby mode, and are active 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This worst-case scenario also lacks of provisions for acquiring energy efficient products and for environmentally sound disposal methods of computer equipment. We have defined the best-case scenario as all computers on campus having LCD energy saving monitors, new CPUs being ENERGY STAR certified, using energy saving techniques, and being active 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. ENERGY STAR certified technology allows computers to automatically switch to standby mode when inactive for a certain amount of time, and thus allowing for energy savings. The best-case scenario also includes provisions for acquiring energy efficient products and disposing of computer equipment in an environmentally sound manner. By stating these scenarios, this study is able to make comparisons between the University of Guelphs current computer energy consumption with the potential energy consumed within the best and worst-case scenarios. The fundamental premise behind these comparisons is that the University of Guelph is not running at optimal energy efficiency, and that through increased power management techniques, the purchasing of energy efficient products and the usage of proper disposal techniques, the University of Guelph can improve its current practices. Explicitly stated, our null hypothesis is the following:

The University of Guelph's current practices will be the same as the best-case scenario for energy consumption and cradle-to-cradle environmental efficiency.

This null hypothesis is the basis for this report; however, several other comparisons will be made, with two sub-null hypotheses being identified:

 

1.  Conservation plans alone cannot reduce the energy required to power computer usage at the University of Guelph.

 

This sub-null hypothesis compares the worst-case scenario with a scenario using CRT monitors and old CPUs, but utilizing energy saving techniques such as shutting the computers down at night.

 

2.  New computer equipment alone cannot reduce the energy required to power computers at the University of Guelph.

This sub-null hypothesis compares the worst-case scenario with a scenario where all computers on campus use LCD monitors and Energy Star certified CPUs, but are left active for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The re-evaluation of the University of Guelphs energy conservation strategies and computer disposal methods is significant. Not only can it save the University money, but it will also perpetuate its excellent reputation as an environmentally and ecologically conscientious institution. Such measures will allow the University of Guelph to act as an example of an institution demonstrating cost-effective green procurement strategies.

 

 

1.1            COMPUTERS AND ASSOCIATED ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

The environmental issues involved in computer manufacturing, use, and disposal employ large quantities of fossil fuels and hazardous wastes; a new push towards the greening of the various components of the computer industry provides hope and practical strategies for the future.

The environmental problems associated with computers are two-fold. High energy consumption and highly toxic component materials are currently inherent characteristics of computers, thus making their production, use and disposal ecologically unsound (Lee., 2004). Unfortunately, due to their sheer global quantities and current product life of roughly two years, the problems associated with such characteristics become greatly enhanced at an alarming rate (Brennan , 2002). Zhang and Forssberg (1999) projected that by 2005, roughly 150 million personal computers (PCs) and workstations will be disposed in landfills in the US alone. By this same year, Gungor and Gupta (1999) predicted that every family in the US will own a computer, and given the aforementioned product life of these systems, it appears that computers are being disposed of as quickly as they are being produced.

Unfortunately, disposal in landfills is only the first step in a dangerous sequence of events involving the breakdown and leaching of computer material components. Examples include lead, barium, chromium and other endocrine and central nervous system disruptors (Baul, 2002). Aside from hazardous wastes, the production and use of computers consumes vast amounts of energy, thus further depleting fossil fuel reserves and playing an increasingly significant role in climate change and global warming (Gungor and Gupta, 1999).

 

1.1.1 Energy Consumption

Globally speaking, the issue of energy consumption is one that involves all sectors and industries. According to Norfold (1990) and Kawamoto (2002), electronic office equipment such as desktop computers use significant amounts of electric power. A typical CPU uses 120 Watts (W = 1 joule/second) of electricity, while a CRT monitor consumes an added 150 W (United States Department of Energy, 2005). This implies that a standard office computer which is left on 8 hours per day, for 5 days a week can consume up to 561.6 kW of fossil fuel derived energy. However, this figure more than triples if such a computer is left on throughout the night or during the entire week.

 

1.1.2 Physical Components and Toxins

Desktop computers generally consist of three major units: the main processing machine (CPU consisting of power supplier, fan, IC boards, DVD drive, CD drive, hard disk, soft disk and shell casing), the monitor and the keyboard (Lee., 2004). However, as demonstrated, these major units are composed of various materials, which, in turn consist of a wide range of chemicals, elements and heavy metals. Some of these materials, such as platinum, have a high recovery and recycling efficiency (95%), while others cannot be recycled at all (e.g. mercury, arsenic and barium). There are, however, two desktop components that represent the largest environmental hazards with respect to bioavailability, monitors containing CRTs and flame retardant plastics (Lee et al., 2004).

 

1.1.3   Cathode Ray Tubes

Since the 1950s, CRTs have been used in television and computer screens. Historically, their production has grown in step with computer demand (Williams, 2003). In 2001, the global CRT monitor industry was valued at US dollars 19.5 billion, producing 108 million units. This figure is expected to fall due to the increasing popularity of LCD monitors (Williams, 2003).

The CRT of a typical monitor accounts for approximately 50%of the monitors weight, and contains a veritable cocktail of elements (Table 1) of which lead is considered the most important due to its high content (up to 20%) in the funnel glass component of a CRT (Lee., 2004).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1.1:

 

Components of CRT panel and funnel glass (reconstructed from Lee, 2004)

Type of Glass

Major Elements (> 5%wt)

Minor Elements (< 5% wt)

 

 

 

 

 

Panel

Silicon,oxygen,potassium,

Titanium,sodium,cesium,lead,

 

Barium,and aluminium

Zinc,yttrium,and sulphur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funnel

Silicon, oxygen, iron, and lead

Potassium,sodium,barium,

 

Caesium, and carbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In most basic terms, a CRT creates the visual image displayed by the monitor, by employing the interaction between an electron tube and a phosphor coated screen (Anonymous, 2003). In order to avoid radiation exposure to the viewer, the funnel glass of the CRT contains high concentrations of lead-oxide (Lee., 2004). According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP), the lead found in funnel glass is considered a hazardous waste because it far exceeds the TCLP threshold of 5 mg/L leached, with values ranging from 10-20 mg/L leached per monitor (Lee., 2004). Williams (2003) also found that CRT monitors exceeded TCLP limits for zinc leachate, thus classifying it as a hazardous waste. The hazard truly occurs when monitors are permitted to weather in landfills, releasing these toxic chemicals into soil, and subsequent water systems.

 

Lead is especially an issue in waste disposal because it becomes bioavailable in soils with increasing pH, and becomes available to animals and humans through the food chain and soil dust inhalation (Martinez-Villegas ., 2004). Once in the body, it can attack proteins and DNA (Bechara, 2004) as well as interfere with the functions of the central and pe-ripheral nervous systems (Needleman, 2004). At high enough doses, it can result in brain edema and haemorrhage (Needleman, 2004).

 

1.1.4   Liquid Crystal Display

The global shipment of LCDs, also known as Flat Screen monitors, is projected to surpass that of CRT monitors by 2007. In 2001, the global market for LCDs was valued at US dollars 9 billion and totaled 12 million units (Williams, 2003). While LCDs are preferred for their efficient use of space, thus allowing more to be shipped at once, they also contain significant amounts of mercury (4-12 mg/unit), which can be leached from improperly discarded systems. Mercury is already a problematic substance in US landfills since in 2000, it was estimated that 172 tonnes were accumulating in locations across the country (Williams, 2003). Additionally, the production of an LCD monitor requires 266 kg of fossil fuels, a figure that surpasses that required for the production of CRT monitors (Williams, 2003).

 

The liquid crystals within an LCD monitor are a mixture of polycyclic or halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, and contain 588 various compounds. However, of these, only 26 possess the potential for acute toxicity in humans (Williams, 2003). While no tests for the carcinogenicity of these compounds have been conducted on animals, tests using bacteria showed no trace of mutagenic effects (Williams, 2003).

1.1.5   Plastics and Casings

Most electronic equipment contains plastic casings that serve as the protective shell and structure for various products including computers (Brennan et al., 2002). These casings often contain plastics such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); part of a wider group of materials known as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) (Domingo, 2004). While BFRs are considered a safety precaution, they are di cult to recycle and separate from other plastics, and due to their high bromine content, will be banned from the European Union as of July 1, 2006 (Osako et al., 2004). Very little is known about the effect that BFRs exert on human health, however, due to their long half-lives (2-10 years) and structural similarities with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), they are considered environmentally persistent and are known to biomagnify (Domingo, 2004). BFRs have caused neurodevelopmental toxicity in lab rats, and have been found in increasing quantities in human blood, adipose and liver tissues, and in breast milk (Domingo, 2004).


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