Environmental Concerns/Sustainability Issues

Learning Objectives

  • to understand the environmental concerns of using ICT and Computers and the Sustainability Issues of continued computer use.

Learning Outcomes

Must – understand the WEEE directive

Should – be able to understand how computers and electrical equipment impacts on the environment.

Could – understand sustainability issues.

The Environment 

eWaste is the term given to electronic devices that are broken, unwanted or obsolete and have reached the end of their natural life.  Because devices advance in technology at such a rapid rate, devices become unwanted and not usable by their owners.

When the items have become unwanted, they are usually thrown away by their owners.  Smaller items such as Mice and Keyboards may be thrown away in the household waste collection.  However, larger devices such as Computers and Monitors are too big to throw in the waste collection.  These have to go to local household waste recycling centres.  Computers, Monitors and Electrical equipment can be either, recycled by being reused, donated to charities overseas to be sold or used or stripped down for parts, with metal and components being reused.


Computer use contributes to lots of electricity use which in turn requires energy generated at power plants.  Carbon omitted from power stations contributes to environmental concerns.  Another concern is the illegal dumping of eWaste.  eWaste components can decompose quickly and this is a concern to wildlife and water sources.


WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment)

WEEE is waste electrical and electronic equipment. It is end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment and covers virtually everything with a plug or battery. It is classed as either household or non-household WEEE.

WEEE is a European Union directive.  Retailers and Companies that sell products which are covered under the WEEE directive are required to offer waste disposal of electrical items that can be disposed of.   For example, a supermarket which sells Batteries is required to offer a facility to collect and dispose of batteries from customers that no longer work.

Councils and other community based organisations offer facilities for WEEE recycling.  Most of these recycling initiatives promote recycling and reusing.

Sustainability Issues

We have a finite amount of natural resources left in the world.  Natural materials such as Coal, Gas and Oil are becoming scarce and cannot be replaced.  This has caused issues for manufacturers of computers.  Computers have to work in more environmentally sufficient ways such as using less power and consumption.  Parts should be able to reused and recycled and metals and plastic components should be able to be recycled easier.