The Director of a think tank in Australia, Veena Sahajwalla, recently proposed a new business idea which might help eliminate the world’s growing mounds of electronic waste. She has suggested establishing small “microfactories” in every local community to recycle and reclaim the waste from mobile phones and other high tech electronic gadgets. Microfactories might provide a way to enjoy a more sustainable future.
Today, a bevy of high tech designers create mobile technology intended for short term uses. Manufacturers expect consumers will eventually discard their products and buy new, upgraded models. This strategy has resulted in waste disposal issues in many places. Some of the components of modern computer devices include highly toxic materials. Additionally, the demand for new raw materials to support expanding technology needs has resulted in a significant increase in mining around the world. Devising a way to reclaim raw materials from e-waste might benefit the environment significantly while helping to keep manufacturing costs low.
Veena Sahajwalla acknowledges the concept of a microfactory represents a comparatively new paradigm. Implementing this type of local recycling facility would eliminate the need to ship vast quantities of toxic waste long distances. At the present time, landfills send a high percentage of electronic waste to southeastern China, a region which has suffered soaring pollution rates partly as a result. She envisions the waste reclamation process coinciding with local manufacturing facilities so materials could be reused quickly with minimally damaging impacts on the environment. Garbage drones could extract certain materials for smelting.