The impact of digital terminals in companies: pollution and issues

The impact of digital terminals in companies: pollution and issues

Digital equipments occupy an increasingly important place in companies and it becomes urgent to talk about the impacts and pollution they generate.

In France, in 2019, digital accounted for 2% of French greenhouse gases (WeNR). By 2040, this is expected to rise to 7%.

Sort and throw away your e-mails regularly, turn off your wifi router the day before your vacation... Small gestures are important, but they are not the most effective way to reduce the impact of digital equipment in the company.

In the life cycle of office equipment, manufacturing is responsible for 77% of GHG emissions. Theuse of this equipment represents 5.7% of the emissions.

So what is the impact of terminals in companies in Europe? What can be done to reduce it? Rzilient will help you to find out what you can do to reconcile IT management with responsibility.

For this, we will rely on the WeNR (2021) report, a study of the carbon impact of the Information Systems of 75 participating organizations in France, Belgium and Switzerland, involving 1,309,604 employees and 4,951,305 pieces of equipment.

Manufacturing: the main source of digital pollution. And the others?

There is a tool that makes it possible to become aware of and measure the impact of computer terminals and equipment in a global and multi-criteria manner, by taking into consideration all the emission items related to the product, at each stage of its life: this is theLCA (life cycle analysis).

This includes:

  • extraction of energy and non-energy raw materials needed for manufacturing;
  • manufacturing ;
  • distribution;
  • USE;
  • collection;
  • transportation;
  • end-of-life disposal.

Not every corporate terminal emits the same amount of GHGs over its lifetime. Here is the analysis from the WeNR report and the breakdown that emerges:

  • desktop computers: 14.9
  • screens: 21.4
  • printers: 13.9
  • Laptops;
  • tablets: 4.9
  • smartphones: 7.3
  • other: 14.2

Pollution from manufacturing

Computers, desktops and laptops, are the most polluting equipment, those that concentrate the largest environmental footprint. It is essentially linked to their manufacture; indeed for a laptop of 2kg, it is :

  • 800 kg of raw materials mobilized,
  • and 124 kg of CO2 generated, out of the 169 kg emitted over its entire life cycle (Ademe).

Manufacturing has a significant impact not only because of the extraction of materials but also because of transportation. It is estimated that a smartphone travels around the world 4 times before being usable and that it needs 70 different materials for its construction. (Ademe)

And the negative impacts are not only related to extraction and transport, we must not forget :

  • Soil and water pollution,
  • Thedrying up of raw resources, especially water,
  • The disastrous working conditions of workers in some countries.

The impact of digital terminals during their use and end of life

The impact of terminals also comes from their use, including the energy needed to store data and send it, thanks to datacenters and network equipment.

The WeNR study reports that GHGs emitted by data centers are 6.8% during use but 10.1% during manufacturing.

Similarly, for office equipment, its use does not represent the most significant impact: emissions are 5.7% for the participating organizations. On the other hand, the way they are used will have an impact on their lifespan. Thus, careful use will have a direct impact on the amount of equipment consumed by the organization, and therefore on the manufacture of even more equipment.

The end of life of the devices also pollutes. Participating organizations generated more than 1.9 million kilograms of Electronic and Electrical Waste (WEEE), or 2kg per user per year.

3 tips to reduce the impact of your equipment

1. Buy less but better

It is important to generalize a responsible purchasing approach to consume less but better. This is what we do by offering reconditioned computer equipment in France, for example.

Rzilient allows you to adopt agile financing solutions and to enter theeconomy of functionality with your hardware by leasing your IT equipment.

Our devices are also available for purchase, and we encourage you to :

  • Opt for eco-designed products,
  • select appliances with eco-labels (EPEAT or TCO Certified).

2. Think about its use and extend its life to the maximum

To reduce the carbon footprint of its terminals as much as possible, it is important to extend their use.

It becomes necessary to look at therepairability index, which since 2021 is a mandatory statement on digital and electronic shelves. The higher the rating, the easier it will be to repair.

In the same way, a controlled use thanks to some simple gestures, makes it possible to lengthen the lifespan of the terminals:

  • Make only essential updates;
  • Turn off your device when you leave at night;
  • Give them a second life by recycling them.

To get out of the psychological obsolescence caused by marketing and the production of new equipments more and more closely.

3. Remember to recycle what you can

Recycling its equipment to integrate it into a circular digital approach is essential in order to produce new equipment whose components will come from this recycling, and to avoid the extraction of raw resources.

Did you know that there is more than 100 times more gold in a ton of phones than in a ton of gold mine? The practice of urban mining (recovery of rare metals from electronic and electrical equipment waste), which is beginning to be democratized, makes sense.

To recycle your computer equipment, the best solution remains to give it to professionals who will in turn integrate it into a circular economy approach. Or drop it off at dedicated places that guarantee a good recycling.

It is also necessary to think about setting up a responsible digital policy in your company with responsible referents or toeco-design some of the services.

Do you want to reduce the impact of your IT assets within your company? Let's discuss your project.


Written by

Audrey Pogu

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